Thursday, October 15, 2015

AC Troubleshooting part one

This is not rocket surgery.  Here's a simple guide that may save you big bucks.  First check the obvious - popped breakers, meteorite strikes, dead rodents on power lines. Reset the breakers, call NASA,  or call your power company.

If the breakers pop quickly when reset, move to the MV section, disregarding the LV part. If you have a frankenstein type switch with fuses inside, likewise.

The Low Voltage Part.

If the AC is not working but the breakers aren't blowing, yo most likely have a Control Circuit problem.  The Control Circuit is run by the thermostat

Does the Thermostat do anything?  By "anything" I mean make the fan turn on and off.  Set the Thermostat to "Fan Only" If no, Take the dust cover off the thermostat and blow out the dust using the canned air you use on your computer keyboard, or just vacuum it out and try again.  Works now?  Yay!

NO?  You wouldn't have such a thing as a voltmeter in the house, would you?  You should.

(A brief digression on voltmeters. You can get a non-contact volt sensor that registers line current for about $10.  For lower voltage Direct Current, you can get a thing that looks like a small screwdriver for about $4.00.  You can get a cheap multimeter for $10.  Don't.  I use a $4 dc volt probe, a $10 non contact sensor, and a $250 Volt Ohm Amp meter. Just remember to turn the voltage sensor off when you're finished.  Replacement batteries cost more than the tool itself)

But anyway, your problem is probably the Transformer which supplies electrons to the Thermostat, which directs them to switches in the fan motor, AC compressor, and Heater elements.  If there's been a lightning strike nearby, or if you've had a service outage, this is the likely culprit.  Attire yourself appropriately,  find a couple of flashlights, a set of needle-nose pliers  and a screwdriver (if you've got one of those flip flop ones where you can turn the bits around and turn the shaft end to end you're ahead of the game).  Follow the wire that looks like a telephone line.  This is a good time to confirm that you're working on an unpowered circuit.  You may have to remove a side panel.  On one side of the transformer will be a black and a white wire (if you're lucky).  They'll come from one side, and be bigger wires.  On the other side will be poor anorexic wires, probably wire nutted to wires of different colors. Don't judge them, just  use the tech to take a picture so you know what goes with what, because the transformer output color coding is set in stone and the contractors used what they had.  Pull off the spade connectors with the needle nose pliers and tape the to one side.

Take it to your local HVAC or electronics shop (I am lucky - I have Johnson Supply about a mile and a half away) and replace it with the same or upgrade for generally under $15.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Breaking Up Is HArd To Do

Demo work not as easy as it seems. Pulling an old Jenn-Air grill (wired oddly in a 3-phase sort of way) I capped off the bits of copper, then did the hard disconnect by removing the contacts from the load center, leaving the tails in place, but labeled.
I am a God amongst Electricians.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Stuff to do now.

Where's your breaker box? Or maybe you call it your "fuse box" (old school), or "load center" (if you're an engineer or contractor).

This is something you need to know, even if you live in New York fucking City and have a Super to take care of this.

It's not enough just to go to the box and find the breaker and reset it. You really should know what else is on the circuit, because it may have been something else that tripped the breaker.

What do we do? We label the breaker box, and then we label each outlet and connection!

Why do we do it? Because the power loss that you notice might not be the cause!

For each power connection you should know from either end. By this I mean that from the box you should be able to know what is on the circuit, and from the connection you should know the breaker.

How do we do it? I'm gonna tell you how.

There's the easy way. This way takes two people, one at the box and one wandering around with a big radio and a cell phone. Plug in the radio, and have the guy at the box trip breakers until the radio goes off. Make notes accordingly. Repeat until all the data is collected, and then compile. Make sure that you duplicate efforts in kitchen and baths with GFCI (Ground Fault Circuit Interrupt) outlets, to find which are on the GFCI. I've found bathroom GFCIs feeding outdoor outlets as well, so be persistent.

The hard way is exactly the same, but turn the radio up to eleven, and trudge back and forth moving the damn thing, making notes and then compiling.

Here's the great part, the part that makes your OCD subsystem happy. The compilation. Breaker one-nine breaker one-nine. Sorry about that. Each breaker has a number, and handles a certain number of outlets. Label each outlet with the breaker number, and a number of its own.

Now you can tell if a particular circuit is being overloaded because all of your daughters are using their blow dryers at the same time, or if it's because some weasel has put the fountain pump on the same circuit.

ProTip: Label each outlet on the inside of the cover with the breaker number. Leave a copy of the breaker index (1: kitchen counter outlets, 2: kitchen baseboard, etc). Take all that info, put it on a schematic, laminate the puppy, and keep it inside the breaker box.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Stuff you can do beforehand

I've been doing this for years, OK? The most common problems are plumbing, and the first thing you have to do is cut off the water. Do you have any idea of where you water meter is? Go outside right now and find it. Seriously. You may have to dig around a bit, but you'll find a valve, probably brass or bronze, that cuts off the water supply to the house. At some time, you WILL have to turn off the water. This is ESSENTIAL information. This valve will be of the type known as a BALL VALVE. The handle part indicates the status of the valve. If the handle is in line with the pipes, it's open. Crosswise to the direction of flow means that it
s closed. Pretty intuitive, really. Block or open. The next thing to do is to find the cut offs for each pipe.
this may seem backwards. Most problems are on the drain side. But unless you have a very new house, or a really diligent plumber, you're going to have really bad cutoff valves. You want to replace them with ball valves.

Why am I making such a big deal of this? Because ball valves stay clean, they don't require washers, and they're specified for two thousand operations open and close and pressure tested for about five thousand pounds per square inch . And they're about a dime per unit more expensive.

Lemme put it this way: thirty years of ball valves and zero failures.

You don't have to do them all at the same time, but every time you turn off the water to the house, check it out.