James Harrison's first mechanical ice-making machine began operation in 1851 on the banks of the Barwon River at Rocky Point in Geelong, Australia. His first commercial ice-making machine followed in 1853, and his patent for an ether vapor compression refrigeration system was granted in 1855. This novel system used a compressor to force the refrigeration gas to pass through a condenser, where it cooled down and liquefied. The liquefied gas then circulated through the refrigeration coils and vaporized again, cooling down the surrounding system. The machine produced 3,000 kilograms (6,600 lb) of ice per day.
Circulating refrigerant vapor enters the compressor, where its pressure and temperature are increased. The hot, compressed refrigerant vapor is now at a temperature and pressure at which it can be condensed and is routed through a condenser. Here it is cooled by air flowing across the condenser coils and condensed into a liquid. Thus, the circulating refrigerant removes heat from the system and the heat is carried away by the air. The removal of this heat can be greatly augmented by pouring water over the condenser coils, making it much cooler when it hits the expansion valve.
The 2nd-century Chinese mechanical engineer and inventor Ding Huan of the Han Dynasty invented a rotary fan for air conditioning, with seven wheels 3 m (10 ft) in diameter and manually powered by prisoners of the time. In 747, Emperor Xuanzong (r. 712–762) of the Tang Dynasty (618–907) had the Cool Hall (Liang Dian 涼殿) built in the imperial palace, which the Tang Yulin describes as having water-powered fan wheels for air conditioning as well as rising jet streams of water from fountains. During the subsequent Song Dynasty (960–1279), written sources mentioned the air conditioning rotary fan as even more widely used.
R22 (also known as HCFC-22) has a global warming potential about 1,800 times higher than CO2. It was phased out for use in new equipment by 2010, and is to be completely discontinued by 2020. Although these gasses can be recycled when air conditioning units are disposed of, uncontrolled dumping and leaking can release gas directly into the atmosphere.
The most recognized standards for HVAC design are based on ASHRAE data. The most general of four volumes of the ASHRAE Handbook is Fundamentals; it includes heating and cooling calculations. Each volume of the ASHRAE Handbook is updated every four years. The design professional must consult ASHRAE data for the standards of design and care as the typical building codes provide little to no information on HVAC design practices; codes such as the UMC and IMC do include much detail on installation requirements, however. Other useful reference materials include items from SMACNA, ACGIH, and technical trade journals.
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Central home air conditioner service systems consist of two major components: a condensing unit that sits outside your house, and the evaporator coil (often referred to as an A-coil) that sits in the plenum of your furnace or air handler. The refrigerant in the A-coil picks up the heat from your home and moves it to the outdoor condensing unit. The condensing unit fan blows outside air through the condensing coil to remove the heat. The condensing unit houses the three parts replaceable by a DIYer: the contactor, the start/run capacitor(s) and the condenser fan motor. The condensing unit also houses the compressor, but only a pro can replace that. The A-coil has no parts that can be serviced by a DIYer.
Evaporative coolers, sometimes called "swamp coolers", do not have a compressor or condenser. Liquid water is evaporated on the cooling fins, releasing the vapor into the cooled area. Evaporating water absorbs a significant amount of heat, the latent heat of vaporisation, cooling the air. Humans and animals use the same mechanism to cool themselves by sweating.
A contactor is a $25 mechanical relay that uses low-voltage power from the thermostat to switch 220-volt high-amperage current to the compressor and condenser fan. AC contactors can wear out and are at the top of the list of common air conditioning service failures. Even if your contactor is working, it pays to replace it every five years or so. Unscrew the old contactor before removing the wires. Then move the wires to the new unit (photo 6).
If a heat exchanger cracks or contains holes, leaks can release carbon monoxide into your home. Carbon monoxide is nearly impossible for humans to detect on their own due to its characteristics of being colorless and odorless. Because of this, it is referred to as “The Silent Killer”. Some symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include headache, dizziness, fatigue, nausea and vomiting. It is extremely important to have a HVAC technician perform a furnace inspection annually to prevent problems such as carbon monoxide poisoning. UGI Heating, Cooling & Plumbing offers yearly maintenance packages and service agreements that include yearly maintenance and furnace inspections.
Ground source, or geothermal, heat pumps are similar to ordinary heat pumps, but instead of transferring heat to or from outside air, they rely on the stable, even temperature of the earth to provide heating and air conditioning. Many regions experience seasonal temperature extremes, which would require large-capacity heating and cooling equipment to heat or cool buildings. For example, a conventional heat pump system used to heat a building in Montana's −70 °F (−57 °C) low temperature or cool a building in the highest temperature ever recorded in the US—134 °F (57 °C) in Death Valley, California, in 1913 would require a large amount of energy due to the extreme difference between inside and outside air temperatures. A few feet below the earth's surface, however, the ground remains at a relatively constant temperature. Utilizing this large source of relatively moderate temperature earth, a heating or cooling system's capacity can often be significantly reduced. Although ground temperatures vary according to latitude, at 6 feet (1.8 m) underground, temperatures generally only range from 45 to 75 °F (7 to 24 °C).
Without proper ventilation, carbon monoxide can be lethal at concentrations of 1000 ppm (0.1%). However, at several hundred ppm, carbon monoxide exposure induces headaches, fatigue, nausea, and vomiting. Carbon monoxide binds with hemoglobin in the blood, forming carboxyhemoglobin, reducing the blood's ability to transport oxygen. The primary health concerns associated with carbon monoxide exposure are its cardiovascular and neurobehavioral effects. Carbon monoxide can cause atherosclerosis (the hardening of arteries) and can also trigger heart attacks. Neurologically, carbon monoxide exposure reduces hand to eye coordination, vigilance, and continuous performance. It can also affect time discrimination.
Variable-speed technology allows more energy saving potential and improved comfort levels throughout the home. The ability of the system to automatically adjust speeds according to the needs of the home ensures the right amount of comfort control, right when you need it. Outside temperatures rarely, if ever, require your HVAC system to operate at 100% capacity. Variable-speed units determine optimal cooling needs and vary speeds in increments between 40% and 100%. Not only does this tailor comfort, but by running at lower speeds and consuming less power, you’ll save a significant amount off monthly utility expenses.
Vacuum the fins of your AC unit clean with a soft-bristle brush. Note: they’re fragile and can easily be bent or crushed. On many units you’ll have to unscrew and lift off a metal box to get at them. Check your owner’s manual for directions and lift off the box carefully to avoid bumping the fins. Follow these other steps to safely clean your home air conditioner for better efficiency.
Cleaning the debris that builds up on your filters will aid with the flow of air. When your air filter is clogged, your air handler must work harder to compensate for the blockage of air flow. In addition to driving up your utility bill, the reduced air flow through your heating and cooling system can cause your heat exchanger to overheat and shut off too quickly.
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The fan limit switch controls the furnace blower. The fan limit switch has three settings: “Fan On”, “Fan Off”, and “Limit”. In the “Fan Off” setting, the blower will only operate if there is warm air in the plenum to prevent cool air from blowing into the home. The “Fan On” setting will keep the blower operating even after the burner has shutdown, making sure that all of the hot air produced is circulated. The “Limit” setting is a safety control that will turn the burner off in the rare event that the air in the warm air plenum reaches an unsafe temperature. This may be the case if ducts are blocked or if the system controls are malfunctioning.
The thermocouple is a copper rod that the pilot flame heats-up. When it gets hot enough, the thermocouple signals that there is enough heat to burn the gas fuel being released into the appliance—and so it allows the gas to be released to the burners. In some cases where the pilot light won’t stay lit, the thermocouple needs to be adjusted or replaced. This is generally a job for a professional.