HVAC units are very sensitive to electricity voltage. If the voltage is too high, and the circuit breaker does not trip, it can cause the system to fry. Similarly, if the voltage is low, the unit has to work harder, and this can cause it to overheat. It is clear that for efficient working and optimum output, the HVAC unit should get adequate voltage as is required. Anything more and anything less is not acceptable. Today, we shall concentrate our efforts on understanding the causes of low voltage and fixing them. Essentially, what we have below is an HVAC low voltage troubleshooting guide.
Low Voltage And Harm It Causes To Your HVAC
Technically, low voltage occurs when the electrical current falls to 90% of its usual capacity for maybe a minute or more. There are two potential harms which low voltage can cause to home appliances, especially your HVAC unit.
1. It can overheat the unit.
2. It can make the unit malfunction due to insufficient power.
Common Causes Of Low Voltage
There are numerous factors that contribute to low voltage. These are –
1. Overload – One of the most widely recognized reasons for low voltage is the over-burdening or overloading of the system. The hot summer months and particularly the afternoons are the times when the power requirement is high. It is mainly because of the continuous use of air conditioners, which typically demand a lot of power. When the power company sees that the demand has exceeded to more than what they can supply, they resort to 5% power reduction per home. This is usually done region-wise but is the main cause of low voltage during summers. It is common knowledge that household electricity requirement exceeds during summer. So, if you simultaneously use several power-consuming appliances, it is bound to cause low voltage in just your home.
The Solution – There is not much you can do if the power company is resorting to power reduction. However, at your home, be cautious that you are not using too many high power-consuming devices or appliances at the same time. Even something as simple as switching off unnecessary lights will go a long way in improving the situation. Use dim lights to create a more cozy and comfortable environment.
2. Distance The Electric Signal Travels – A lesser-known fact is that homes situated far away from the main power plant will receive lesser voltage. A New York-based company, Utility System Technologies, claimed this through a paper issued in September 2009. They stated that this drop in voltage was due to “low load density”. In cities, people live in close proximity to each other. This density works in favor of the electrical signal making for a fixed voltage for every home. While in rural areas homes are spread over a large area. The electricity has to travel further and because of which the electrical signal may lose its strength.
The Solution – Here, things are out of your hands. The best you can do is file a complaint, along with others who have to face the same issue, with your electric company. You can ask them to take steps to boost the voltage in your area.
3. Load Imbalance – The electrical framework of our homes is such that there are three wires originating from the transformer and leading into the house. One of these wires is the “neutral”. The idea behind this design is to equally spread the load demand. If one wiring is weaker than the other, it can cause a load imbalance. When this happens, more electricity passes through one wire compared to the other. The wire which is overloaded will start giving less voltage, which in turn causes low voltage and weak signals.
The Solution – The solution to this problem lies in ensuring that all wires are of the same strength. You can call your local technician to validate this for you. In case, such is not the situation ask him to do the necessary wire replacement so that you don’t have load imbalance.
4. State Of Wires – Age and corrosion cause the wires to deteriorate. Sometimes the connections become dirty, and other times the insulation becomes questionable. Poor quality and damaged or spliced cables can also result in low voltage. The gauge of the wire has to be appropriate, and if there is an increase in the number of homes, the wires need to be upgraded to a higher gauge. Low gauge wires are often the cause of low voltage.
The Solution – You need to ask your local electricity technician to check the quality of wiring in your home. If it has deteriorated, you need to get it changed as soon as possible. If that still does not solve the low voltage problem, ask your electricity provider to check the gauge of lines supplying power to your area. If needed, they will have to upgrade things at their end.
If You Live In An Area With Perpetual Voltage Fluctuations
The area where you stay may be facing low voltage problems regularly. If that is the case and nothing has been done by your electricity provider, you can install a voltage stabilizer with your AC. Whenever there is a drop in the voltage, the stabilizer will automatically scale up the voltage to the requisite level so that your AC can work normally. There are also small devices called “Compressor Defender” which protect your AC unit from both high and low voltage. The stabilizer and compressor defender will cost a little, but in turn, will increase the life of your unit. As a part of the HVAC low voltage troubleshooting advice, we recommend investing in a good quality protective devices if your residential area is prone to low voltage.
In The End
Voltage, which we take for granted is a double-edged sword. Both high and low voltage is dangerous to your appliances. Thankfully, there are products available in the markets, which make it easy for you to monitor and protect your electronics against damage due to voltage fluctuations. Investing in them is just adding an extra layer of protection. Hopefully, our HVAC low voltage troubleshooting guide will serve you well in understanding the root of the problem.