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HVAC tech support questions

The Data Aire Service Team regularly works with and supports HVAC service technicians all over the world as they call in to discuss any of the large array of issues that they may face in the field.

It’s always great to speak with another HVAC technician because we have our own language and can relate to each other’s experiences. We understand the challenges within the field. It doesn’t matter if we are communicating for the first time; it feels like we have known each other for years.

How Does Our Service Team Resolve Your Issues?

Tech Support’s primary focus is not just to find the failure, but to find the reason of failure. We have a set of questions prepared for every technician’s call. The successful calls are from the well prepared and organized technicians who have all their information gathered and ready, like policemen looking at every piece of evidence and only believing facts. Having these facts helps us to resolve their issues very quickly.

Below is the list of questions that service departments use to gather the facts:

1. Date the problem occurred
2. Customer information that may be useful
3. Ambient or room conditions of the unit
4. Unit information. Most importantly, the serial number, but we’ll take any other info too!
5. Reported problem. Be specific. Some customers have a lot of actual useful information that may help us get to the root cause
6. Any relevant history? Unit run time? Maintenance history? When did the problem start? Number of times this problem has occurred.
7. Present alarms and alarm history
8. Is the unit installed per Data Aire IOM?
9. What have you found? Detailed explanation on how the component was condemned. What test or instruments were used, measurement results, how it was done and for how long.
10. Failed component/part information? (Model #, Serial #, Part #)
11. If changes were made, what were the reasons for the changes?
12. What are your suggestions and the reasons for your recommendations?
13. Do you have a follow up date?
14. What are the actions that need to be taken and who is taking responsibility?
15. Reason of failure and how it was determined

Identifying the reason of failure is the most important information we need. The last thing you want to do is go out in the field and look for a part or seek support and not have all the information required. You want to prevent the failure from reoccurring. We have seen technicians replace a part and have it fail a few days later.

How Should HVAC Technicians Prepare Before They Call Support?

One thing we often notice is that these seasoned professionals have developed a specific skill for troubleshooting during their career. HVAC Service Tech SkillsThat skill is using all their senses. The best technicians use their eyes, ears, smell and touch to find answers. They must be good listeners and gather as much information/details as possible before grabbing any tools from their tool box. They listen to the customer for their input or they listen to the unit for any abnormal noises that can point them to the direction of the problem. Second, they visually inspect the unit for clues, such as stains, wear and tear, or burnt marks. Third, they feel for infiltration and temperature changes. Lastly, they use their sense of smell to detect suspicious odor, such as mold or a burnt-out compressor.

These service technicians have attended our service training and stay up to date with changes we make to our products. They know and understand the sequence of operation of the unit in question. They know the purpose and functionality of the components and what activates the safety switches. For example, they know if the safety switches are activated by pressure, by voltage, by resistance, or by temperature. They are also effective communicators. They report and train everyone involved. They don’t leave anyone in the dark.

Data Aire Service Department has created a Troubleshooting Guide to help those new to the trade.

Maintaining the consistent performance of your HVAC equipment is vitally important for mission critical environments. Our service techs understand the challenges and issues technicians face in the field from communicating with them on a regular basis. The Data Aire Service Team is here to support HVAC service technicians and to help resolve any issues they encounter in the field.

gPod HVAC All-In-One System

The inside of your gPod needs to be dry to ensure that you get the best crop and the longest life out of your equipment.

Water in the unit anywhere except inside the condensate drain pan underneath the cooling coil is cause for concern. Normally a wet unit means that water is somehow getting out of that pan.

The water may start to rust some of the internal parts of your gPod. Even worse, water inside the gPod creates a favorable environment for mold growth. If enough water leaves the drain pan it may eventually run out of the unit and onto the floor.

Possible Causes of Leaks and How to Fix Them

If you detect water inside the cabinet of your gPods, take immediate action.

First, check that the unit is mounted evenly in all directions. Adjust the unit as necessary to make it perfectly level both from front to back and from left to right. The water is supposed to be collected by the pan and which then immediately runs out the drain hole at one end of the pan. If the unit isn’t level the water will build up in one corner and spill out of the pan into the unit.

Next, make sure that your condensate drain pipe diameter is the correct size. In no case should the drain line from any single unit be smaller than ¾” diameter. That size is determined by the plumbing code so your inspector should catch this.  When the ¾” condensate drain lines from multiple gPods are tied together into a single common drain line, the pipe diameter of the common line needs to be larger than ¾”. Where the second gPod is tied in, the common drain line will be handling twice as much water, so it needs to be bigger. Here is the chart that is usually used to size those pipes. Please note that your local codes may differ, and you should always follow your local code.

Get Trapped the Right Way with a P-trap

Every gPod needs a P-trap on the outlet of the coil drain pan. The supply fan in the unit pulls a negative pressure on the condensate drain line. Without a trap, the fan will suck air backwards through the drain line and up through the drain pan outlet where the water is supposed to drain out of the pan. This continuous flow of air coming up through the drain hole prevents the water from entering the drain line and leaving the pan.

When the fan runs it pulls the water in the trap up the drain pipe, like sucking on a straw pulls liquid up the straw. The fan is only strong enough to suck the water a few inches up the drain line. The P-trap is designed to make sure that when the fan is sucking as hard as it can, there is still enough water in the U-shaped bottom of the trap to keep air from getting past the column of water. When the fan is pulling as hard as it can, if there is still water in the bottom of the trap, air can’t get past and the water will drain out of the pan.

   

Getting the P-trap Dimensions Right

Once you know the drain is the correct pipe size, check the dimensions of the P-trap on the condensate drain.

The dimensions required for the trap to hold enough water are calculated based on the installation and the strength of the fan in the unit. Dimensions have been added to the drawings below to give you an idea of what your traps should look like. The drawing on the left is for units with bottom drain connections. The drawing on the right is for units with side drain connections.

The dimensions shown below will allow your gPods to drain on virtually any project. Shorter dimensions may work, but a trap with dimensions less than 4 inches is probably asking for trouble.

   

The small dimension is equally as important as the big dimension. The small dimension must be no less than the big dimension minus one inch, divided by 2. Contact your gPod representative and he can consult with the gPod engineering department to determine the precise dimensions your traps need.

Other Unlikely, but Possible, Causes of Water Getting Out of the Drain Pan

There could be a leak in one of the corners of the drain pan. The pan’s corners are welded and then sealed with silicone. But, on rare occasions, a drain pan may develop a leak. The fix is to remove all the old silicone sealer, dry the pan thoroughly, and apply new sealer to the leaking corner.

Finally, and least likely, the fan may be turning so fast that it sucks the condensate right off the cooling coil before it has a chance to run down the coil fins and into the pan. gPods are specifically designed to prevent this so try everything else first. If that doesn’t solve the problem, please call the Data Aire Service Department or your local gPod representative for help.

Air conditioning Myths

Myth: Just a Shot of Freon is All It Takes

The myth I’d like to debunk because I dislike it the most is the “it just needed a shot of refrigerant (Freon)” myth. A shot of Freon is almost never a permanent fix for your air conditioner’s problem.

There is one main reason to add refrigerant to an air conditioning system. The reason being that the amount of refrigerant in the system, commonly called the charge, needs to be adjusted. It is not unusual for refrigerant charge to need adjustment ONCE during the first year or 18 months of operation. Occasionally, the charge may need to be adjusted again, after several years of operation.

All modern air conditioning systems are hermetically sealed. Nothing goes in; nothing goes out. There are only two ways that Freon can leave the system. It can be taken out intentionally or it can leak out.

Your service technician’s primary objective is to get your air conditioning up and running in the shortest time possible. If you want him to do more than just that, you must ask him to do more.

Guidelines to Follow When Interfacing with Your Service Technician

1: Get an explanation before you pay a service technician for adding “a shot of Freon” to any air conditioning system. This applies to the air conditioner in your house and your car as well as the systems in your grow.

2: Be sure to get a copy of every service ticket and save them in a file. Make a note on the ticket about your discussion around a leak. You may need these in the future. (See Rule #3)

3: Never ever allow a shot of Freon to be added to the same system twice. Obviously, there is a leak under these circumstances. The leak needs to be fixed or you are just throwing good money after bad.

Questions You Need to Ask your Technician

1: “How much refrigerant did you add?” They know exactly, because they charge you by the pound.

A legitimate adjustment to the charge consists of adding a pound or so of refrigerant, at the most. If the technician added more refrigerant than that, you likely have a leak. Adding refrigerant without fixing the leak is like giving a blood transfusion to a patient without stopping the bleeding.

2: “Where was the leak?” closely followed by “Did you look for the leak?” Service technicians hate to find and repair leaks. It messes up their whole day. They start the morning with a list of places to go and equipment to fix.  It will take all day to find and repair a refrigerant leak. If the technician didn’t find the leak, call the service company and make an appointment for the technician to come back when enough time has been built into his schedule to do the job.

Some customers would rather pay $500 for a service call once or twice a year, forever, to avoid paying a $1,500 onetime charge to fix the leak. Service companies will come back to add refrigerant to the same system again and again for as long as you want them to. It is quick and it is easy.

Repairing the leak will not be cheap but it is way better than the alternative. A leak is going to lead to a major failure at some point. The small leak will get bigger and bigger. A big leak can destroy the compressor. Replacing the compressor will cost several thousand dollars and the unit will be out of service for a couple of days.

Remember… Find the leak. Fix the leak.