This last Monday morning, I noticed that my air conditioner wasn’t providing cool air just before I was going to leave for work. In this southern locale, air conditioning is nice even this late in the year. I had the thermostat set to 81F and it had climbed to 83F, so its not like I keep the place cold. A quick inspection revealed that the fan in the condenser/heat exchanger unit wasn’t spinning. This began my second repair odyssey in as many weeks.
When I came back from work, I investigated what I had. The condenser is a Rheem RAMB-030JAZ. It has a ten year warranty on some parts and was manufactured on April 2002. Figures. I researched that while a fan moved fresh cooler air from outside into the house. The thermostat showed 80F by morning, so it wasn’t too bad. It also helped that it wasn’t raining.
Tuesday morning, I opened up the condenser and started poking around. I found it has a Honeywell R8242A relay that switches power to the fan and compressor inside the condenser. The relay is very open; the contact moved by a magnet to open and close the circuit is visible and even movable by hand. It also has 240VAC, so I decided to only try moving the contacts with a large screw driver. Doing this manually did nothing, but my multimeter showed that 240VAC was present. There was some blackish junk under the moving contacts; a close look showed that junk was a bunch of ants. Ants! My nemesis had denied me cool air! Oh, I’m going with singular for nemesis here since one ant poses no problem, but many ants together form a single nemesis. The picture here was after I removed the ants; I just didn’t think to take a picture sooner.
Anyway, the ants needed to be removed, so I first had to cut power to that relay. I first switched to off all the breakers that had a label indicating they had anything to do with the air conditioning. This did not remove power. The option that I found in my research was to remove a fuse from a box that supplies power to the condenser. That box is so close to the condenser that it will not fully open nor stay open. This prevented my from getting a good view of anything inside. I tried to get it out with one hand only to discover that the sides of this fuse assembly inside the box include exposed metal with both ends of 240VAC. I felt a burning sensation, and fortunately the instinctive response was the same. That left my hand sore for half an hour, but otherwise I was fine. Good thing I couldn’t use both hands. I wonder if there is a good reason to not cover those surfaces, or if leaving them exposed is done to make things cheaper.
I discovered that one of the unmarked breakers in the house can also cut power to the condenser. I suppose I should have tried that first. With that done, I cleaned out the ants, switched the breakers back, and pressed down on the relay. The compressor and fan started up just fine. Now I need to kill more ants.