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Air Conditioning System Installation: A Detailed Guide

CEO Khai Intela
I'm sure we can all agree that the installation process for a new air conditioner can be quite complicated. Many customers are surprised to learn just how much goes into it. Unfortunately, there are HVAC...

I'm sure we can all agree that the installation process for a new air conditioner can be quite complicated. Many customers are surprised to learn just how much goes into it. Unfortunately, there are HVAC companies and air conditioner installers out there who don't know all the necessary steps for a good installation. This can lead to subpar performance and increased energy costs over time. But fear not, because in this article, we will cover the entire air conditioner installation process from start to finish!

Before we dive in, it's important to note that air conditioning installation should always be handled by a licensed professional. After reading through the following steps, you'll understand why.

Planning the Replacement or New Installation of Your Central Air Conditioner

The first step in the installation process is planning. It's crucial to consider the current location of your existing air conditioner. Modern air conditioners are larger and more efficient than their predecessors, which means that the new unit might not fit in the same spot. In some cases, state or manufacturer regulations require certain clearances around the unit or proximity to the utility meter. This may result in additional costs for relocation or modifications to your home's ductwork.

On the bright side, modern air conditioners are significantly quieter and more efficient, which can offset the costs and enhance your comfort.

Collecting A/C Information During the Home Estimate

During the initial in-home visit, the estimator will review your existing air conditioning system and collect important information. This information will then be passed on to the installation team. Specialized equipment may be needed, which the installation team will bring with them. Having all the necessary information beforehand increases the chances of a successful and prompt installation.

The Arrival of the Install Team, Review, and Safety

Before the installation team arrives at your home, you'll receive a call or text to let you know they're on their way. Some companies even provide pictures and bios of the installation team beforehand for safety and comfort. Once they arrive, the lead installer will review the job details with you. This step is crucial to prevent costly mistakes during installation. While you're reviewing the details, the rest of the team will start preparing the area, laying down floor protection, and turning off electrical circuits and gas supply to the existing HVAC equipment for safety.

Removing Your Existing Central Air Conditioner

Before a new air conditioner can be installed, the existing one needs to be removed. It's important to note that the refrigerant in your old unit needs to be safely and legally removed. This requires a recovery machine and a recovery tank. Proper certification is also necessary for anyone handling refrigerant or equipment containing refrigerant. Once the refrigerant is recovered, the electrical wiring is disconnected and the existing air conditioner is ready to be removed.

Preparing the Area for the New Central Air Conditioner

In most cases, the existing location of the air conditioner requires some preparation before the new unit can be installed. This may involve replacing the pad that the new air conditioner will sit on. Modern air conditioners are larger and taller, so leveling the ground with a gravel base is often necessary. Concrete pads are not recommended as they can crack and shift over time. A composite pad is a better option due to its durability and ability to absorb vibrations.

Removing the Existing Indoor Evaporator Coil

The indoor evaporator coil, connected to the furnace, also needs to be removed. The process can be complicated if access is restricted. Additional work may be required to the supply plenum before installing the new coil.

Removing the Existing Copper Refrigerant Lines (Line Set)

The existing refrigerant line set, which carries the refrigerant from the outdoor condenser to the indoor evaporator coil, can be removed. It's recommended to replace the line set if it is exposed and accessible, as the oil in older line sets may not be compatible with the new air conditioner. If reusing the existing line set, it needs to be properly flushed, cleaned, and pressure tested.

Installation of the New Indoor Evaporator Coil

There are two options for installing a new evaporator coil: cased and uncased. The cased coil is pre-cased by the manufacturer and easier to install. It sits on top of the furnace without modifications and comes with an insulated cabinet. The uncased coil requires more preparation and installation time but is just as efficient when installed properly. The coil needs to be built into the existing sheet metal supply plenum, with specific requirements for drain pan placement and airflow.

Installation of the New Copper Refrigerant Lines (Line Set)

The new refrigerant line set, made of two copper lines, needs to be installed. The lines should be installed as one piece, secured with appropriate hangers and as few bends as possible. It's important to protect the lines from corrosion by avoiding contact with dissimilar metals. The line set will run from the outdoor condenser to the new indoor evaporator coil, with a small low-voltage control wire running alongside it.

Setting the New Air Conditioner Condenser

The new air conditioner condenser is uncrated and inspected for any damage. The refrigerant line set is connected to the service valves on the condenser using a brazing process. A liquid line filter drier is installed to absorb moisture and provide filtration. Heat protection is applied to prevent damage to sensitive components during brazing. The system is pressure tested and vacuumed to remove moisture and non-condensable products. Once the vacuum holds, refrigerant is introduced into the system.

Installation of the New High- and Low-Voltage Wiring

The high- and low-voltage wiring is reconnected to the system. A service disconnect box is mounted on the side of the house to provide overcurrent protection and allow for easy disconnection of the power supply to the air conditioner. Proper electrical connections are made according to the manufacturer's guidelines.

Installation of the Condensate Drain Line

The condensate drain line, responsible for removing moisture from the cooling process, is connected to the primary side of the indoor evaporator coil. A condensation pump may be used if a proper floor drain doesn't exist. A trap and an overflow safety switch are installed in the condensate system to prevent flooding.

Startup Commissioning Process

The system is turned on and allowed to run for 15-20 minutes to ensure proper refrigerant flow. During this time, various data points are collected to ensure the system is operating within manufacturer specifications. This includes pressure, temperature, airflow, and electrical readings.

Clean up and Closing Process

All materials and old equipment are removed from the premises, and the area is cleaned up. A final walkthrough is conducted to go over safety, maintenance, warranty, and any special instructions. The locking cap is placed on the outdoor unit to prevent tampering and theft of refrigerant. The installation is considered complete after final signatures and payments are collected.

Installation Completed Professionally

Congratulations! The installation process is now complete. It may seem lengthy and complex, but in the hands of a skilled installation team, it should be a seamless process. Proper installation is essential for maximizing your comfort and the longevity of your air conditioning system.

If you're in the market for a new air conditioner and looking for a reliable HVAC company, make sure to choose one that adheres to high standards and has a reputation for professionalism. At Fire & Ice Heating and Air Conditioning, we take pride in our installation process and hold our technicians to the highest standards. We believe in doing the job right the first time.

If you're in the Columbus area and ready to take the next step, give us a call or schedule an estimate. We'd be more than happy to be the ones to install your new air conditioning system.

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