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5 reasons your AC might go on the fritz

By Alan J. Heavens
Philadelphia Inquirer

The sun is ablaze in the bright-blue sky above. The Weather Channel promises several days of hot and humid weather to come. As beads of perspiration appear on your forehead, you make your way to the thermostat and throw the switch to turn on the central air-conditioning for the season.

Nothing.

Here are five reasons that your system might not kick in when you throw the switch, according to Fred Hutchinson, a specialist in Cherry Hill, N.J.

• Inadequate maintenance. Dirty filters and air-conditioning coils can cause the machine to underperform.

• Refrigerant leaks. Air conditioners work most effectively and efficiently when the refrigerant charge exactly matches the manufacturer’s specifications and is neither undercharged nor overcharged.

• Drainage problems. This is a frequent issue with city residents who have window air conditioners.

• Electric control failure. The compressor and fan controls can wear out, especially when the air conditioner cycles on and off frequently, common when a system is oversize.

• Sensor problems. To keep a room comfortable, window air conditioners have a thermostat sensor behind the control panel to measure the temperature of air coming into the evaporative coil. If the sensor is knocked out of position, the air conditioner can cycle on and off too often or otherwise behave erratically.

Of course, what Hutchinson is too polite to say is that you should test the AC well before the start of hot weather and have it checked again at the first sign of trouble. Too often we hope for the best rather than spend the money on repairs.

So if your air-conditioning is operating just fine and dandy, you might want to make an appointment with your service contractor to check out the furnace before winter blows in.

Even if your air-conditioning is doing well, you probably are not enthusiastic about paying for that comfort this summer. Owens Corning, the maker of that pink insulation, has these suggestions:

• Program your thermostat. Homeowners can save energy and money by using a programmable thermostat to automatically adjust the temperature at night or when no one is home.

• Shade your windows. Sunny windows can make air conditioners work two to three times harder. Reduce air-conditioning costs by closing curtains on the south- and west-facing windows during the day. Window shades, blinds or drapes will reflect heat away from the house.

• Insulate your investment. Proper insulation can help keep a home cooler during summer (and warmer in winter) and save up to $220 annually on energy bills. The attic is the easiest and most affordable place to add insulation to a home.

• Weatherize. Air leaks can lead to wasted energy and spending. Weather-stripping will keep cool air in during summer. Insulating areas around air-conditioning ducts in attics, crawl spaces and garages also will save energy and money.

Q. I have a barn with metal roofing and siding. The paint is fading. I have no leaks that need to be fixed; it just doesn’t look good. There is not much rust, but a little mold is growing and I don’t want it to get worse. I also want to change the color to red.

If it is an old metal roof, it is probably terne, and the ideal choice for coating has always been Tin-O-Lin, which is available from roofing supply companies. I used it for years on my terne gutters, and it worked just fine.

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