A/C failed - clogged with clothes dryer lint

amyf5July 18, 2009

My house was built four years ago and yesterday, I had my third air conditioning compressor put in. The first two failed, apparently, because they kept getting clogged with the lint coming from my clothes dryer which vents outside very close to the air conditioning unit.

I am looking for suggestions for how I can avoid future problems. After the service technician advised me yesterday of the cause, I stuck a pair of pantyhose on the outside dryer vent to collect the fine lint so it isn't sucked into the a/c unit, but this is not a permanent solution. The vent already has a plastic grate cover, but the holes are about a square cm so dust easily passes through.

I would be grateful for any suggestions. Thanks in advance.


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Have you thought of calling your local home improvement store, such as Home Depot or Lowe's? I wonder if they might sell a permanent attachment you could put on the dryer exhaust.

    Bookmark   July 18, 2009 at 1:28PM
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A local hardware store might also have such an attachment available.

Also - have you thought of calling the maker of your dryer? They might make such an attachment.

    Bookmark   July 18, 2009 at 1:30PM
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A sock or pantyhose over the dryer exhaust may seem like a solution ... but it will restrict the dryer's airflow leading to longer dry times, potential overheating, and even premature failure of the heating element (if it's an electric dryer). The only permanent solution is to reroute the dryer's exhaust, or move the A/C unit.

    Bookmark   July 18, 2009 at 1:36PM
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sears guy came over and he told us to get those vent hole covers OFF he said it constricts and causes problems with air flow . We had the one with square holes and he said they are really bad.

    Bookmark   July 18, 2009 at 1:53PM
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I'm skeptical of the technician's explanation. Was going to suggest posting in the Heating & Air Conditioning Forum, but I see you've already done that. My dryer vent is right next to one of my A/C units. The fins adjacent to the dryer vent are covered with lint, I don't hose them off as frequently as I should, and I'm probably losing a little efficiency. But the compressor has been working that way for a long time, maybe nine years.

    Bookmark   July 18, 2009 at 2:45PM
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Doubt lint caused three failures.
Unit would have to be covered in lint with you ignoring the problem and not cleaning the condenser coil.
Suspect poor install and service.
Find an ACCA member in your area if possible. If you cannot than call the manufacturer for a qualified company to check unit out.

    Bookmark   July 18, 2009 at 9:53PM
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Do you regularly clean your air conditioner condenser coil with a garden hose and high-pressure water? Especially with this recurring problem.... We suffer through about 6-weeks of cotton flying from the cottonwood trees in the neighborhood and I hose off the condenser 1-3 times a week to prevent it clogging.

To add an "out there" thought... I wondered if it was worse because of softener use (sheets or liquid)? Perhaps the fats in softeners coat the fine lint particles that makes it sticky and it adhears to the condenser, and that contributes to the problem.

Our neighbor's use so much softener I'm practically knocked down from the scent and toxins emmiting from their dryer vent and avoid being outside when they do laundry. The side of their house has a HUGE streak of softener residue on it around their vent (after 3-years). So it wouldn't be that big of a leap to think it could affect the condenser in close proximity.

I guess this is yet one more great reason to line-dry clothes... Which happens to be a cost-effective, environmentally-friendly, remedy.


    Bookmark   July 19, 2009 at 4:55AM
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Do NOT use anything close to high pressure water on your a/c unit. The pressure from even a normal outside hose bib and nozzle is way too much. It will bend the fins on the coils, which in turn disrupts the air flow through them trememdously. It will be a showstopper. Use gentle water with maybe some Simple Green to clean and remove mold. Maybe use a pump spray bottle to apply. Then use a paintbrush to get between the coils. Rinse with water only from the same spray bottle.

    Bookmark   July 19, 2009 at 9:46PM
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You state the dryer vent is very close. If it's to the side and THERE IS ENOUGH ROOM, have you thought of constructing a small fence? Basically build a partition wall to keep the a/c from pulling in the dryer air. It wouldn't have to be very long or tall. You wouldn't want to enclose either, but basically just redirect the air. Go out probably a couple feet and up at least a foot past the dryer vent. If there is enough room I would actually go out a little past the edge of the a/c unit. Or alternatively you could go out about a foot and then do a 45 degree away from the a/c unit for another foot. Go all the way to the ground with the partition.

You could use a large piece of cardboard to figure out just what size dimension you need to redirect the air flow. Peg the cardboard in place and possibly duct tape. Run both and see if it solves your air flow problem. If so, build a more permanent structure.

If not, you will probably need to re-vent but check to make sure you are following the current building codes. Possibly a HVAC person would have some solutions.

    Bookmark   July 19, 2009 at 11:30PM
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Ok, I really do doubt that lint is the cause of the failures, unless the unit was really plugged up by the lint. Ask the diagnosing tech what the head pressure was when he thought the coils were plugged up, and what the outdoor ambient temp was, if he doesn't know then get another tech. Pressure and temperature measurements are the only way to properly diagnose refrigerant related problems, including plugged coils. I would suspect that the first compressor that burned out contaminated the sealed refrigeration system with acids. Here is what happens, when a sealed compressor motor burns out the internal windings overheat and burn off the varish, in the presence of refrigerant, oil, and heat very strong acids are formed. When the compressor gets changed out the acid eats away at the varnish that coats the motor windings of the new compressor. Back in the old days R-11 was used to flush a system out that had burned out a compressor to remove the acids. Today environmental laws prohibit that practice. Here is what should be done to prevent future burn-outs. A removeable suction filter dryer that is made just for system burnouts should be installed just before the compressor. The system should be allowed to run for week under normal use, then the tech comes back and changes the suction filter. A month later another change occurs, and at three months an acid test is done on the oil to assure that all acid has been removed. At this point if all the acid is gone either another suction filter is put on, or the pipe is spliced back together with flare fittings leaving the filter out entirely. Unless a proper burnout cleanup is made you will continue to be replacing compressors on a frequent basis. Most compressors can live 10 years or more if they are installed correctly in a system that is not contaminated with acids from previous burnouts.

    Bookmark   July 20, 2009 at 2:45PM
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