Air conditioner debugged!

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.

Honeywell R8242A without ants

Honeywell R8242A without ants

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.

Condenser way too close to the power box

Condenser way too close to the power box

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.


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2 Responses to “Air conditioner debugged!”

  1. Jerry Says:

    How is your condenser doing? I have the same one and have had to replace the capacitor twice now and also a fan motor.

    • jjackowski Says:

      The only problem I’ve had with it since I moved in were the ants. I’m not looking forward to replacing a capitor or anything else, mostly for the lack of cool air before I finish.

      I’m guessing you’re not too happy with the reliability of the condenser?

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