Advantages of the ductless system include smaller size and flexibility for zoning or heating and cooling individual rooms. The inside wall space required is significantly reduced. Also, the compressor and heat exchanger can be located farther away from the inside space, rather than merely on the other side of the same unit as in a PTAC or window air conditioner. Flexible exterior hoses lead from the outside unit to the interior one(s); these are often enclosed with metal to look like common drainpipes from the roof. In addition, ductless systems offer higher efficiency, reaching above 30 SEER.
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).
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.
Consequently, this water must exit the air handler—typically through plastic pipe or a drain tube. That drain tube goes directly outside, often terminating near the compressor, or to a floor drain or to a small electric “condensate pump” located by the air handler. Where a condensate pump is used, it connects to a 1/2-inch vinyl or rubber tube that exits outdoors or to a drain.
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The compressor-based refrigerant systems are air-cooled, meaning they use air to exchange heat, in the same way as a car radiator or typical household air conditioner does. Such a system dehumidifies the air as it cools it. It collects water condensed from the cooled air and produces hot air which must be vented outside the cooled area; doing so transfers heat from the air in the cooled area to the outside air.
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