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Maintaining Tec Garage Air Conditioner

The summers in Texas are long and hot. If you have a separate garage, for your Tec of course, you might have it and/or your ajoining shop air conditioned. More and more people are doing this. It is no longer only for the super rich. The key to maintaining the garage's air conditioner, and any home air conditioner for that matter, is to periodically replace the contactor. This key relay is at the heart of your air conditioning system. [As the cross-sectional area of the contacts decreases, resistance goes up by a square function, as you remember from the formula for calculating the area of a circle from geometry]. Over time, this wear places undue stress on the compressor, as it is starved for electricity. It can shorten the units lifespan considerably as well as its ability to cool the garage today. Units that should last 25 to 30 years are being replaced in 8 years. I see this quite frequently.

Here's what to do. First, turn the air conditioner's 220v circuit breaker off at the box, set the thermostat to off, and turn the circuit breaker off to the furnace (or unplug it). These latter two steps cut off the power going to the 24v coil on the contactor. Second, remove the panel going to the outside unit, as well as the cover plate to the 220v components. Third, take a screw driver and ground the main feed line going to the contactor [This could save your life, if you have not completely turned off the power to the unit!]. Fourth, break lose, but don't remove yet, the four hex-head bolts on the top of the contactor. Fifth, remove the two bolts mounting the contactor to the air conditioner. Sixth, gently pull the old contactor aside and mount the new contactor in place. Seventh, replace each wire-for-wire from the old contactor to the new contactor. Take your time and don't rush it. Take a picture or make a sketch of the wires first, if you are unsure of yourself. Be careful not to accidently discharge any start or run capacitors--they carry quite a jolt. Eighth, snug up bolts, clean the inside of the unit, replace covers, and turn power back on to the air conditioner and furnace. Reset thermostat, cool down, and count your money.

Most local electrical supply houses will not sell you contactors. Local air conditioning technicians, who spent maybe $20,000 going to air conditioning school, don't want them to. However, they are available on line for a fraction of the cost most local electrical supply houses sell them for. You just saved yourself $100 to $150--not bad for a 30 minute job, first time around.
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