This year we have already seen some hot, lovely weather and no doubt you’ll be wanting the Air Con systems on full blast as we venture out of lockdown. So, now might be a good time to get the Air Con checked, bearing in mind that many vehicles have been sat doing very little during the recent months.
It is important to remember that Air Con isn’t just there to keep you cool but to keep the cabin environment conditioned and safe from pollutants. Here’s a quick guide to what Air Con actually does, how it cools the air and what to look out for if the system is struggling to work or worse… what the signs are if it needs a clean.
What is Air Con?
Air Conditioning (or Air Con) isn’t just about cooling the air it’s actually designed to “Condition” the air, its primary function is to reduce the moisture, humidity and impurities from the air that enters the cabin environment. A side effect of this system is it also offers relief from the heat.
This refrigerated respite comes at a price, energy the Air Con system takes to remove heat and moisture consumes petrol, by increasing the load on the engine and reducing the number of miles per gallon your car delivers. Regular maintenance and refilling will help to reduce fuel consumption.
Why does an Air Con system need less energy the fuller it is? Simple, if your system is low on refrigerant the system struggles to cool the incoming air, it has to work harder to refrigerate it and therefore puts more demand on the engine. The harder your engine works the more fuel it needs, so fuel consumption increases…. and so does the fuel bill.
How does the system work, here’s a quick description!
There are four main areas to an Air Con Unit:
- Condenser Coils
- Expansion Valve
- Evaporator Coils
What’s the process…..
- In every Air Con unit there is a Compressor, this is where the refrigerant (the gas that needs refilling) is waiting.
- Fresh air from the outside passes over the condenser coils causing the temperature to drop quickly and the refrigerant to liquefy.
- This liquid then travels through a dryer to remove any impurities before entering the thermal expansion valve (this valve allows you to control the temperature in the vehicle by limiting the flow).
- The final stage is where the liquid is turned back into vapour, this happens when it travels through evaporator coils, this vapour is then blown through the cabin as cool air. Whilst this happens, we start at the beginning again, the refrigerant (now in gas form through evaporation) returns to the compressor to start the process all over again.
So why does it stop working or when should I have it looked at?
The most common issue for the Air Con to stop performing is not enough refrigerant, it’s a vital part in the air conditioning process. BUT the constant process of changing state from gas to liquid to gas and back again means some of this gas permeates and is lost in the system.
Less refrigerant means less cool air and the harder the engine has to work to chill the cabin air (so more fuel is needed). By refilling or topping up the system every few years will keep your air con working at its optimum and keep those fuel bills down.
There’s a funny smell, like old socks? This is an indication that it’s probably time to have the system de-bugged. The Evaporator in the system has the perfect conditions for bacteria, mould and fungi to grow. This can produce a bad smell when the system is switched on. In some cases, spores from these can be blown into the cabin and cause illness. The de-bugging process, decontaminates the system killing any bacteria and will instantly remove the smell from the system.
For more advice or to book your vehicle in for a gas top-up or de-bug call Standlake Vehicle Services Teamyou’ll have an air conditioned driving environment in no time.