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What Is a Crankcase Heater and How Does It Work?

Atlanta Heating & Air Solutions Mabelton
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Depending on the type of heating, ventilation, and cooling system (HVAC) that’s installed in your home, it may have a crankcase heater. It’s a common part of many heat pumps and some air conditioning systems. The crankcase heater is located outdoors in the condenser unit. Even if aren’t running your heat pump or air conditioning system, the crankcase heater may turn on.

What Is a Crankcase Heater?

A crankcase heater is an electrical device that’s designed to warm up the crankcase of a compressor. Both heat pumps and air conditioning systems have a compressor. As the refrigerant flows through the compressor, it will become hotter and more pressurized.

Some compressors are equipped with a crankcase heater. The crankcase heater is mounted to the bottom of the crankcase. Like other heating devices, it generates heat. The crankcase heater will radiate heat into the crankcase.

How a Crankcase Heater Works?

Crankcase heaters work by generating heat when the compressor isn’t running. They feature a heating element that’s powered by electricity. Electricity allows crankcase heaters to produce heat.

Most crankcase heaters will only turn on at the end of a cooling cycle. They won’t produce heat while your heat pump or air conditioning system is running. Instead, the crankcase heater will wait until your heat pump or air conditioning system has stopped running. The crankcase heater will automatically turn on at the end of a cooling cycle, and it will automatically turn off at the beginning of a cooling cycle.

The Purpose of a Crankcase Heater

Some compressors require a crankcase heater. In cold environments, for instance, a crankcase heater can protect compressors from various problems. It will prevent refrigerant from mixing with the compressor oil.

Refrigerant has a tendency to migrate to the crankcase – the part of a compressor that contains the oil – in cold temperatures. And because the crankcase is located outdoors, it’s susceptible to cold temperatures. Refrigerant may migrate to the crankcase where it mixes with the compressor oil. A crankcase heater will prevent this from happening by keeping the crankcase warm.

Crankcase heaters promote proper viscosity of the compressor oil. The temperature of the compressor oil will affect its viscosity. At low temperatures, it will be less viscous. At high temperatures, the compressor oil will be more viscous, meaning it will flow more easily.

With a crankcase heater, the compressor oil will maintain proper viscosity. It won’t become too cold. Rather, the compressor oil will stay warm enough so that it easily flows through the crankcase.

6 Cooling Mistakes to Avoid With Your AC System

Air conditioning systems can last for a long time when properly maintained. Modern air conditioning systems, in fact, have an average lifespan of about 10 to 20 years. Some of them will even last longer. To protect your air conditioning system from premature wear and tear, though, you should avoid these cooling systems.

#1) Closing Supply Vents

Closing the supply vents in your home can take a toll on your air conditioning system.  If you close all of the supply vents for an unoccupied room, pressure will build up inside of the ductwork. Too much pressure can damage the ductwork, resulting in costly air leaks.

#2) Opening the Windows

Avoid opening the windows when running your air conditioning system. Even if you only crack the windows, it will allow the conditioned air to escape your home. The cool and conditioned air will escape through the windows, and it will be replaced by warm air.

#3) Running the Blower 24/7

Another cooling mistake to avoid is running the blower all the time. The blower is a fan. You can control it at the thermostat. Even if your air conditioning system isn’t running, you can run the blower by choosing the “ON” setting. But running the blower all the time won’t create a cooler interior; it will simply consume energy while blowing room-temperature air throughout your home.

#4) Using a Dirty Air Filter

Perhaps the most common cooling mistake homeowners make is using a dirty air filter. Air filters will inevitably get dirty. After all, they work by catching particulate matter from the air. If you don’t change the air filter, it may get so dirty that it restricts airflow.

#5) Overlooking the Condensate Drain

Don’t overlook the condensate drain. If you have a central air conditioning system with an indoor unit and an outdoor unit, it will have a condensate drain. The condensate drain is located near the indoor unit, which is the evaporator coil. Like most types of drains, it can get clogged. A clogged condensate drain can cause water to back up at the evaporator coil.

#6) Neglecting an Annual Inspection

About once a year, schedule a professional inspection for your air conditioning system. Some homeowners neglect an annual inspection. Rather, they wait until their air conditioning system stops working to contact a professional. You can protect your air conditioning system from failure by getting it professionally inspected at least once a year.

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