What causes mini splits to wear out and how to maintain them – problems happen, but they’re no more complicated than traditional systems
Ductless mini split systems reward you with great benefits, such as energy efficiency and superior comfort control. They can be set up to maintain a precise temperature zone in specific areas of your home or business. Like all mechanical systems, your ductless mini split will need some regular attention to maintain its operation.
If you’re handy around the house, you can do much of what’s required to make sure it’s running at an optimal state. You’ll also want to make sure to have your ductless mini split system regularly inspected by a licensed professional to maintain the warranty. Here’s what to watch out for.
The three main components
- Outside: Like traditional central air conditioning systems, the compressor for your ductless mini split system is outside – along with the condenser and its fan. These three things must be operating correctly, or the inside air handler unit won’t provide cool or warm air. The most important piece is the compressor, which pressurizes the refrigerant.
- Inside: The wall-mounted air handler for your ductless mini split system has a fan, coils, and an air filter.
- Connecting the two: Think of the conduit that connects the outside and inside elements of your ductless mini split system as its spine. The conduit contains a power line, a refrigerant line, and a condensate drain line. Humans can become paralyzed if something harms their spine, and your ductless mini split system can suffer the same fate if this conduit is damaged.
The most common things that can go wrong
The U.S. Department of Energy says two of the most common reasons for air conditioner problems – including ductless mini split systems – is because of faulty installation and inadequate maintenance. It’s best to hire a licensed professional to install your ductless mini split system. This ensures that the unit will be covered by the warranty in case something does go wrong, and you’ll need to show proof of proper installation.
Most ductless mini split systems come pre-charged with the correct amount of refrigerant for the length of connecting conduit shipped with the system. If this conduit isn’t used because a different length is needed, it’ll be necessary to adjust the amount of refrigerant based on the length of the conduit. These lines can have a long span, which makes them prone to leaks or clogging.
Today’s ductless mini split systems use an environmentally friendly refrigerant known as R-401A. It replaces the older R-22 refrigerant, which can no longer be used after 2020. The new refrigerant operates at a higher pressure. If there’s a leak, your system may not run, or it might produce loud noises. A refrigerant leak is a likely cause if you notice a decrease in cooling or heating capacity, or you find ice on the air handler’s coils. Get professional help quickly. This can cause damage to the compressor, which is the most expensive component of your ductless mini split system.
Even with proper installation, there’s a possibility of certain kinds of operational problems. One of the most common is water leaks along the conduit that connects the outside unit to the inside wall-mounted hair handler. One of the lines inside this conduit is the condensate line, which removes moisture created during the cooling process. It must be pitched properly downward.
If the condensate line develops a leak, the moisture could be absorbed by the wall where the air handler is hanging. This can weaken the structural integrity of the wall, causing the air handler to rip away from its attachments. You can check for water leaks behind the air handler by periodically scanning the wall area around where it’s installed. Call a professional immediately if you see signs of moisture.
Malfunctioning air handlers
The inside wall unit will need periodic maintenance and cleaning. This is often sufficient to prevent any problems, and it’s something you can choose to do yourself. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions to shut off the unit and then turn off the power to it to prevent electric shock.
Then follow the manufacturer’s instructions for cleaning the air filter. This will allow for optimal airflow and temperature control. The cooling coil can be cleaned with a soft, dry cloth. An accumulation of dust even the thickness of a few human hairs is enough to reduce your unit’s efficiency by up to 20%. This element can create considerable moisture as it works to help with dehumidification, so check for signs of mold or mildew. Schedule to have the coil professionally cleaned and treated if you find any.