Saturday, April 7, 2012

The Zen of Air Conditioner Maintenance

We are blessed with 5 industrial-grade air conditioners in our home. There's the normal-looking AC unit inside, and a large fan outside connected to each. We are blessed that we don't have to pay the electric bill either (either for the national electricity, when it's on, or for the two generators that keep the lights on when it's not).

As the dusty season finally draws to a close and the hot season begins, we've needed to call on our air conditioners a bit more than previously. We've also needed to get used to our faces being rivers of sweat much of the day. My shirts are discovering new sweat lines I never knew I had.

We also seem to remember that our ACs used to work better than they do now. We call in maintenance, and they just tell us that it's on and there is at least modestly cool air coming from it, so they won't do anything. Grrr.

But one time when a guy was here, he did something! I watched. He took up the outlet hose, where the water is supposed to exit, and he stuck it in his mouth. He sucked on it as hard as he could, then gagged and choked out the yucky thing that he extracted. Water then flowed out of the outlet hose and the AC worked.

Lesson Number 1: When you are sucking the marrow out of life, you sometimes get a hairball.

I asked him, "So the next time we have this problem, should I do that?"

He looked very uncomfortable. It was part 'I'm a professional, you're not'; part 'this really isn't pleasant, kid', and partly something I had recently read in a book: the working classes in Britain hate to see one of the aristocracy doing any real work. That last is a look I've gotten to know fairly well. "Um ... no, sir" was his eventual answer.

I have since learned that when I do this, I also clamp my teeth shut. It increases the chance that whatever gunk comes out gets trapped between teeth and gums instead of going straight down to my lungs.

Lesson Number 2: "Stuff" Happens. If you grit your teeth, not as much of it will get in your mouth.

Yes, I could continue calling on maintenance to regularly come and fix my hoses. But #1 it takes them a few days to get back to me and in the meantime we have no AC. #2 and more importantly, if someone is going to do it, it might as well be me since my family gets the benefits. That's just responsibility. (That, and it feels less imperialistic/spoiled-rich.)

That has not been enough recently however. When the AC guys came by this week, I caught them doing something again! They filled a bucket of water and splashed water on the fan outside the house to clean out all the dust that had accumulated over months of dust. The rivers of black water were very impressive.

Lesson Number 3: Daily repentance, daily teeth brushing and flossing, daily washing of an AC fan, all keep the gunk from building up and save you a lot of future pain.

So after they left, I did the same for the other units. They are all working at much higher efficiency. It takes about 3 buckets' worth to clean out those buggers.

The best part is that you do this while the AC unit is running. The fan is on, so every cup or bucket of water you toss into it gets blown out at high velocity. It's fun, spraying the water everywhere, dumping the end of a bucket of water on a moving fan. Just the kind of thing Mother would scream holy terror about if you tried inside the house.

Lesson Number 4: KIDS, DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME. These are industrial grade AC units. Your home AC unit will NOT respond well to water. Your body will not respond well to electrocution.