My AC Is Getting Old… Is It About to Run Out of Refrigerant?

Russell's Heating and Air ConditioningThe question above has a number of answers, because it touches on a number of different topics when it comes to how air conditioners operate and how best to handle an air conditioner that’s been around for a couple of blistering summers out here in the Southern California deserts. There are three topics to address:

  • How old an AC need to be before it’s considered “too old.”
  • How refrigerant works.
  • Air conditioning system replacement.

Let’s take them one at a time to give you a full answer to the question in the title. If you want further assistance from specialists in air conditioning in Palm Desert, CA, you only have to give us a call.

Air Conditioning System Age

Okay, so you think your air conditioner is getting old. How many years has it been in service? The standard central air conditioner can last between 10 to 15 years. The best way to know how long your air conditioner should last is to check the warranty. If the AC is past its warranty date, it’s probably getting “too old.” If the system is costing much more to run than it used to, or if it needs more than $500 in repairs each year to keep it running, it’s also gotten too old.

The Refrigerant in Your AC

Your air conditioner should never under normal circumstances be in danger of running out of refrigerant, because refrigerant isn’t something that is used up as the system runs. No matter how much you run your air conditioner—and you’ll run it often here in the desert—it won’t take away from refrigerant. This is because refrigerant is a heat transference fluid that shifts from liquid to gaseous form to move heat from the indoors to the outdoors, and it never dissipates in this process. As long as the system doesn’t suffer malfunctions, it will retain the same amount, or charge, of refrigerant for its service life.

But… refrigerant lines can corrode and allow refrigerant to leak out of the system. An AC doesn’t have to be old to suffer from this problem, although an older unit is at a higher risk. Regular maintenance will catch if the AC is losing refrigerant so technicians can repair the air conditioning system by sealing the leaks and restoring the proper refrigerant charge.

Air Conditioning Replacement

If you’re at the point where you are worried that your air conditioning system is too old, then it’s probably the right time to have the AC replaced. And if it’s old and suffering from trouble with leaking refrigerant … it’s almost definitely time for an air conditioning replacement. Each year you continue running an over-the-hill AC, you’re at a higher risk of the system suffering a catastrophic breakdown during one of the hottest days of the year. Plus, the air conditioner will run up excessive repair costs and waste money on inefficient performance.

If you want a professional opinion about AC replacement or repairs, get in touch with us and we’ll help you toward the best solution.

Russell’s Heating & Air Conditioning serves the Inland Empire and the Desert Communities. For exceptional customer service, please give our office a call

Failed Capacitor: An AC Problem on Super Hot Days

Russell's Heating and Air Conditioning	Russell's Heating and Air ConditioningThe serious summer scorcher days are the baseline of what we expect here in the deserts of Southern California. Our air conditioners run steadily through most days, and sometimes into the nights. That amount of labor places immense strain on any air conditioning unit, which can lead to parts breaking down.

But the heat itself can have an effect on an air conditioner as well–aside from the amount of work the AC system does. One problem that our AC repair technicians encounter when the temperatures soar above 100°F is failed capacitors.

The Capacitor vs. The Heat

Capacitors are electrical components that send electrical voltage to the motors. Start capacitors get motors running, and run capacitors keep them running.

Capacitors are sensitive to high temperatures: if exposed to too much heat, a capacitor will start to lose its ability to hold an electrical charge (in other words, its capacity to hold a charge), and this leads to capacitor failure. If a start capacitor fails, a motor will not be able to start up. If a run capacitor fails, a motor will only run for brief time before shutting off.

Capacitors give off signs they’re failing. A clicking sound from an air conditioner when it starts up often indicates a dying capacitor. A hard-starting air conditioner, where the system struggles each time it starts ups, is also an indication of possible capacitor problems. (There are other causes for hard-starting, so always have technicians look into it.)

If a capacitor fails, it will need to be replaced. This is a job for professionals only: if an amateur puts in the wrong type of capacitor, it can cause serious damage to the motor.

If you need air conditioning repair in La Quinta, CA or elsewhere in the Inland Empire and Desert Communities, you can reach us 24 hours a day!

Russell’s Heating & Air Conditioning offer fast AC repairs. For exceptional customer service, please give our office a call.

Be Prepared with Your AC for More Hot Weather

Russell's Heating and Air ConditioningThe early fall is still a hot time of the year in Southern California, and although we’ll have short cool spells, we will also experience periods of extreme heat. This is why you have to be vigilant about your air conditioning system at this time of year. With all the work the AC has already done over a hot summer, the stress on it places it in danger of a possible breakdown when further heat waves strike. Ensuring your air conditioner can still take on this late-year heat is important.

What You Can Do to Help

First, give your air conditioning as much of a break as possible during cool stretches. It’s common for people to keep their air conditioner running when they come out of summer, even during mild warm days. We recommend you don’t run the air conditioner unless the outdoor temperature climbs above 80°F. Set the thermostat to 78°F. You can even have the AC shut off entirely and simply use the HVAC fan while opening up windows and doors to allow for improve air circulation. The less stress you put on the cooling system this later in the year, the better.

Second, don’t forget about the air filter in the HVAC cabinet. It still needs to be regularly changed, and people often forget to do the last change at the end of summer. Nothing will cause a faster increase in strain on an HVAC system, even when running in fan-only mode, than a clogged air filter.

Third, always have the air conditioner repaired if there are any indications that something is wrong with it. Even if it isn’t outwardly affecting performance (such as a strange noise from the cabinet). A malfunction of any kind creates a high risk of a full system breakdown.

We’re open 24 hours to assist you with air conditioning repairs in Cathedral City, CA and throughout the Inland Empire and the Desert cities.

Russell’s Heating & Air Conditioning has offered great AC service since 1980.

5 Things We Wish Everyone Knew About Air Conditioning

Russell's Heating and Air ConditioningLiving in Southern California makes air conditioners a part of daily life during the summers—as well as other parts of the year. But how much do you really know about the AC system that keeps your home cool? Below are five facts about air conditioning systems that we wish everybody knew, since they make it easier to understand when an air conditioner needs repairs or a full replacement.

ONE: ACs don’t “create” cooling

This is a basic fact about how any refrigeration system works that few people know. This is because they immediately think of cooling systems as being the opposite of something like, say, a stove or furnace, where heat is created. But cooling is the absence of heat. What an air conditioner does is remove the heat from the air inside a house, making it cooler. The heat has to go somewhere, and that’s why an air conditioner must have an outside unit to release the heat.

TWO: Air conditioners circulate the same amount of refrigerant

It’s unfortunately common for people to think that the refrigerant inside an air conditioning system is a type of fuel that an AC consumes as it works. But this isn’t the case. The actual fuel the air conditioner consumes is electricity. The electricity powers the components that move the refrigerant around the system so it can transport heat from inside the house to the outside. The refrigerant doesn’t dissipate as it does this, so as long as there are no refrigerant leaks, an AC should keep the same refrigerant charge for its entire service life.

THREE: The AC’s filter must be changed regularly

The filter in an AC isn’t there to improve the quality of the indoor air. (You need special air filters installed into the HVAC system for that.) Its job is to stop dust and other particles from getting inside the HVAC cabinet and creating trouble. This filter isn’t self-cleaning! It will eventually become congested and block airflow through the system, harming both performance and efficiency. We recommend changing the filter every 1 to 3 months. Less expensive panel filters need the more frequent changes than pleated filters.

FOUR: Dirt is one of the biggest enemies of air conditioner efficiency and operation

An air conditioner picks up dirt in both the indoor and outdoor cabinet over time, and this will cause the system to lose energy efficiency and run into other problems like frozen coils and burnt-out motors. Regular maintenance handles cleaning the AC unit so it runs at its best.

FIVE: R-22 refrigerant will soon be unavailable

For decades, air conditioners used a refrigerant blend called R-22. Because R-22 creates ozone-depleting emissions, it is being gradually phased-out in favor of R-410A, or “Puron.” Manufacturing of new R-22 has already stopped, so only recycled refrigerant can be used to repair older systems. By 2020, it won’t be legal to replace lost R-22. If you have an old AC system that uses R-22, we recommend putting in a new system at your earliest convenience.

When you need air conditioning service in San Bernardino, CA or the surrounding areas, you can trust to our experienced team. We have a long history of helping homes enjoy comfort through our extremely hot summers.

Service your AC today: Russell’s Heating & Air Conditioning serves the Inland Empire and the Desert Communities.

Watch Out for a Leaking Air Conditioner at the End of Summer!

Leaking is something you might expect from a damaged water heater or corroded piping. But an AC that leaks water? Is that something that happens?

Yes, it is. As your air conditioner works to cool down the air in your house, it absorbs water moisture out of the air. The collected moisture drips from the evaporator coil and down into a shallow condensate pan. A pump then removes this water down the drain line and out of the house.

But problems with the pan, drain line, and pump can lead to water leaking out of the air conditioning system… and that’s not something you want to happen.

How Do These Leaks Start?

The most common cause for a leaking air conditioner is a clogged drain. Dirt can enter the system, especially at the end of summer when the air filter can become congested, and enter the drain. Algal growth can block the drain. Because the condensate pan is very shallow, water will quickly overflow from the pan.

Other reasons for water to escape from the air conditioner include a burnt-out condensate pump and corrosion along the drain that causes it to detach from the pan and allow water to fall out the bottom.

How Leaking Creates Problems

First, water falling out from an AC can create hundreds of dollars in water damage to your house. Second, the excess humidity put into the air from pooling water will encourage the growth of mildew, molds, bacteria, viruses, and other unhealthy organic intruders. Finally, water dripping around electronic equipment presents a fire hazard. Should you see water leaking from your air conditioner, you must have the issue repaired right away.

Don’t Go DIY with a Leaking Air Conditioner!

One of the biggest misconceptions about HVAC systems is that most problems they encounter can be fixed “do-it-yourself” style. Aside from cleaning and changing an AC’s filter and resetting tripped breakers, you shouldn’t attempt to fix problems with an air conditioner on your own. This applies to clogged drain lines as much as anything else. Don’t poke around the drain line and use spotty advice garnered from an Internet search to repair a leaking air conditioner. When you call on HVAC professionals, you will have the trouble fixed—fast and right—which will save you money and future headaches.

When you are searching for exceptional customer service for your air conditioning repairs in Calimesa, CA, just call on Russell’s Heating & Air Conditioning! We offer 24-hour emergency service.

As the Summer Scorcher Arrives, Watch for Warning Signs from Your AC

Russell's Heating and Air ConditioningTemperatures here in the deserts and inland areas of Southern California are already rising above 100°F during the day—and it isn’t even officially summer yet! We hope you’ve already arranged for maintenance for your air conditioning system, but don’t panic if you haven’t: it’s not too late to contact our technicians to schedule this vital service.

But even the best maintenance job can’t stop all air conditioning problems, and the intense heat we experience puts immense strain on household cooling systems that can lead to malfunctions. During these first days of scorching hot weather, pay close attention to your AC system when it’s running. If you detect signs of anything that’s out of the ordinary, you’ll be able to arrange for air conditioning repair in Indio, CA or the surrounding areas in time to prevent more expensive repairs or even a complete system breakdown during one of those sizzling 100°+ days.

A Short Guide to Early Summer Warning Signs from an AC

Here are a few of the telltale signs something is wrong with an air conditioner during the early parts of the year.

  • Ice developing along the indoor coil: If you see this, and you haven’t yet scheduled maintenance, the likely cause is a clogged air filter. Change the filter for a new one (something you’ll need to continue every 4 to 6 weeks for the rest of the season). If the coil is still developing ice, you may have leaks in the refrigerant lines, which is a serious problem that puts the entire air conditioner in jeopardy—and requires professionals to repair.
  • Hot spots around the house: You’re getting cool air in the living room, but some of the bedrooms feel warmer than they should. This might be due to poor insulation or cracks around windows. But it’s also one of the first indications an air conditioner—for a number of reasons—is losing its cooling ability. The best step is to have HVAC technicians find out what’s wrong: miscalibrated thermostatfaulty zone controls, improperly sized system, refrigerant loss, etc.
  • The AC is short cycling: Short-cycling is when an air conditioner’s compressor turns on and off rapidly over a short period, such as every fifteen minutes. If you hear the noise of the AC compressor switching on and off multiple times during an hour, something is wrong. It could be stress on the compressor, air leaking from ducts, a clogged air filter, a loss of refrigerant, dying capacitors, a thermostat reading incorrect temperatures, or a number of other issues, all of which require assistance from HVAC professionals.
  • Acrid smells from the vents: When an air conditioning system first turns on for the season, you can expect the smell of dust coming from the vents. This is just the collection of dust in the ductwork getting blown out into the air. However, if you detect a persistent acrid odor, it often means one of the motors is running hot and in danger of burning out.

You may have noticed how the symptoms above often have multiple possible causes. This is one of the reasons you must have licensed HVAC technicians on the job: they’ll know how to diagnose the problem correctly so they can make accurate repairs.

Russell’s Heating & Air Conditioning serves the Inland Empire and Desert Communities.

Should I Be Worried if My AC Is Short-Cycling?


Russell's Heating and Air ConditioningShort-cycling is a condition that’s easy to notice in an air conditioner, although people may not always know exactly what it is or why it’s a problem. To put it as simply as possible, short-cycling is when an air conditioner’s compressor turns on and off multiple times over an hour, with each cooling cycle lasting less than fifteen minutes. This shouldn’t be happening if the air conditioner is running properly. Short-cycling places enormous pressure on the components of an air conditioner, which creates high bills and a system that will wear down fast—to the point where it will need to be replaced years ahead of time. Short-cycling is often a sign of a specific malfunction that needs to be repaired.

Below we’ve listed some of the causes for an AC to short-cycle. In most situations, you’ll need air conditioning repairfrom professionals to fix these troubles—and you don’t want to hesitate about it, since some of these malfunctions can lead to a full system breakdown that will require a complete air conditioning replacement. If you live in the Desert Communities or the Inland Empire, you can reach our professional HVAC technicians 24 hours a day for assistance.

Common Reasons for a Short-Cycling AC

  • Clogged air filterWe talk about this a lot because when the air filter of an HVAC system becomes clogged it can cause numerous problems—but it’s also a fast fix. Just put in a clean filter! (Reminder: do this regularly, every 1 to 3 months.)
  • Loss of refrigerant: Here’s another concern about many air conditioners. When an AC is having trouble absorbing or releasing heat through its coils, it can cause the compressor to shut down prematurely. If an AC is allowed to run with a reduced refrigerant charge, it will eventually cause the compressor to burn out—and this usually means the compressor needs to be replaced, which is one of the most expensive repairs an AC may need. (Most people simply opt to have the air conditioner as a whole replaced when this happens.)
  • Thermostat malfunction: If the central thermostat in a home starts to register incorrect readings (“ghost readings”), it will cause the air conditioner to behave erratically and turn on and off rapidly. The best course of action is to replace the thermostat. This is a good opportunity to upgrade to a more advanced, energy-saving thermostat model.
  • Oversized AC: Has your air conditioner been short-cycling since Day One? In that case, the trouble is likely that the installers put in a unit that’s oversized for your home; i.e. it delivers too much cooling, which makes the system shut off the compressor’s cycle early. Avoiding an oversized AC is one of the reasons to always have trained professionals handle air conditioning installation. If you have an oversized air conditioner, you’ll need to have it replaced with one that’s professionally sized to meet your home’s exact cooling requirements.

We’re here to help you with air conditioning service in Indio, CA or elsewhere in the Inland Empire and the Desert Communities.