air conditioner fire

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http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ku1PO923ShQ

About 1:16 into the video, we see the unit under a deck, with gate, and tiny access.
Does anyone else but me see why this setup could be a concern?
No, I'm not the installer. I'd never do this.
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Christopher A. Young
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On 01/18/2014 07:46 PM, Stormin Mormon wrote:

Yep , completely enclosed by wood.
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On 1/18/2014 8:53 PM, philo wrote:

That's one factor, but the other factor that was obvious to me hasn't yet been mentioned.
Even if it were enclosed by tin sheet metal, it is also a concern.
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On Sat, 18 Jan 2014 20:46:59 -0500, Stormin Mormon

I am not a mechanical inspector so I am not sure of the code but it is a horrible "design" choice. In inspector talk "design" is the gray area between "code" and things that are just a dumb idea. Put all of that heat and noise under your deck? Nuts. The fire thing is secondary. I am not sure a condenser catching on fire under a dry pine tree, next to your house is a good thing either and that installation is perfectly legal.
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Because someone your size wouldn't be able to fit under there. Although, with all that whale blubber you have hanging off you, you probably would slide right in.
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On 1/18/2014 9:52 PM, Tony West wrote:

Mo0rmons store 2 years worth of food.... Stormy keeps his close! ;-p

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On 1/18/2014 7:46 PM, Stormin Mormon wrote:

I don't know how many times I've had to explain to some idiot that you must have free air circulation for any condensing unit. The video showed some condensers mounted on a wall off the ground and that's the way to do it if there is landscaping around the darn things. Me and my late friend GB built a platform 6' off the ground for a 5 ton condenser at a restaurant so cars could pull up to the building and park. It rarely needs cleaning because it's above the dirt that's at ground level. ^_^
TDD
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On 1/19/2014 5:54 AM, The Daring Dufas wrote:

I some how guessed that TDD would see the air circulation problem, and how the unit just recycles the heat. This one must have been cooking hot, and kept tripping the overload protector. Thank you for bringing common sense to this list.
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On Sunday, January 19, 2014 7:21:59 AM UTC-5, Stormin Mormon wrote:

While I agree 100% that unit should never have been installed where it was, I still wouldn't think it should cause a fire. It would certainly run inefficiently, but I don't see how that alone could generate enough heat to start a fire. I would suspect that something had to fail and it's entirely possible it wasn't related to the heat at all. Certainly someone dumb enough to install it that way is also dumb enough to do something else wrong, ie improper electrical connection, etc. It's also possible the installer put it in before the deck was installed. Even if the sides were not there, it's still no place for the unit to be.
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Stolen without permission from decks.com:
"Building a deck over an air conditioner
Sometimes an existing air conditioning unit is installed in the location where you want to build a new deck. Your best option is to move the unit to another location out of the way. This might cost you a few hundred dollars but will save you a lot of headaches in the long run. Most AC manufacturers recommend maintaining a minimum 60" uninterrupted clearance above the compressor to allow for hot air to exhaust from the top of the unit. Without proper air flow your AC unit can overheat and break down. You must also consider access for repairs of the unit. If your deck is very high you may be able to leave it in place but keep in mind that AC units can be very noisy and hot."
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On 1/19/2014 6:21 AM, Stormin Mormon wrote:

I don't know why more installers don't get the darn things off the ground away from the dirt that can get sucked into them. I always told customers to turn the AC/heat pump off when the grass is being cut anywhere near the outside unit. Getting the condenser off the ground just a little like putting the pad on concrete blocks will keep it a lot cleaner. Of course I did a lot of commercial work where the condensing units were on the roof but they still got dirty. Most guys don't know to install head pressure controls on condensing units for commercial sites that will run the AC during the winter. The easiest way is to install a pressure switch on the high side to control the condenser fan. Me and GB would install high and low pressure cut out pressure switches for residential customers who had furry pets which would cause hair to clog the condensing unit. The low pressure switch was to save the compressor if the refrigerant leaked out. Me and GB would do all sorts of things to help customers keep their systems running like installing surge arresters and anti short cycle timers. ^_^
TDD
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TDD,
I vacuum my condenser fins as part of my fall clean-up tasks. This year must have been overly active year for the cotton wood trees in the area. When I removed the shroud it looked like the condenser fins were wearing a blanket. It was about a 1/4" thick. I could peel it off in big sheets. This is the first time it's looked that bad.
What are your thoughts on adding a "pre-filter" by wrapping the unit in fiberglass screen material? Do you think that would restrict the air flow too much? I'm sure the air was seriously restricted by the cotton wood dust, so one way or the other it's going to be less efficient. At least I could clean the screen material easily and often as opposed to pulling the shroud multiple times over the season.
You thoughts?
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On 1/19/2014 9:55 AM, DerbyDad03 wrote:

Me thoughts that few people have the attention to detail to make a prefilter work, for condensing unit. I sense that you are one of the few who does.
Brush and vac cleaner is better than no cleaning, but chemicals and garden hose is better yet.
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I walk by my condenser almost every time I'm in the backyard. It's close to my back door and right next to the hose spigot. It would be tough not to notice the build up of "lint" on the pre-filter.
One possible method would be a screen covered wooden frame, a few inches larger than the unit, that could fit right over the unit. If designed correctly, it could provide filtering for the sides and the few inches of gap at the top, yet allow free airflow from the top of the unit. When it got dusty, it could be lifted off and hosed down or vacuumed.
My only concern would be the lack of airflow _into_ the unit. I remember a summer many years ago when I was an inquisitive teenager. My grandfather had two matching table fans. One had the cage covered with aluminum screening, the other did not. It was the first time I realized how much air flow a window screen can inhibit.

A garden hose would still require removal of the shroud to achieve a good cleaning of the fins. If I want to do it multiple times a season, that's where the PITA exists.
Another option would be to remove the screws that hold the shroud on - especially the ones on the bottom back of the unit where they are hard to get to - and use a couple of ratchet straps to make the R&R easier. I haven't looked close enough into that option to see if the shroud has enough support to hold it's shape with straps and no screws.
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On 1/19/2014 2:53 PM, DerbyDad03 wrote:

I think you're on to a new line of thinking. I like it.
Some units don't have a perforated metal shroud, makes me wonder if yours is really needed. Don't know, I'm not there.
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On 1/19/2014 1:49 PM, Stormin Mormon wrote:

Year later, and I write almost the same thing. At least I'm consistent.
- . Christopher A. Young learn more about Jesus . www.lds.org . .
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I second that notion.
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On 1/19/2014 8:55 AM, DerbyDad03 wrote:

Many manufacturers install a plastic screen with 1/4" square openings and it looks like a plastic version of metal hardware cloth but it's more about protecting the aluminum fins than filtering air. The airflow through a typical condensing unit is so high that a filter of even window screen would be impractical because it would clog up very quickly. The only way I would ever use something like that is if I had a manual reset high pressure cutout switch installed on the unit. It sounds like you could use one on your condenser now. The newer high efficiency units are more prone to clogging than older systems because there is less space between the fins. I've seen old units that rarely clogged up because of their wide fin spacing. If you use your shop-vac and brush attachment to clean your condenser without bending any fins, that's OK but it would be even better to use the wide spray from your garden hose to wash it out too. Don't use the narrow stream from your garden hose because it will bend the fins over and cut air flow. Over the years I've had to comb out a lot of fins on condensing units when some doofus thought it would be helpful to blast the dirt out of a condensing unit using the narrow stream from a garden hose nozzle. The big box stores sell an aerosol can of cleaner for your AC unit that does a pretty good job of cleaning it up perhaps not as well as the professional cleaning chemicals but you're not likely to damage your unit by using it. ^_^
TDD
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I am in my backyard almost every day, so I would be able to see clogged screening much better that I can see clogged fins. If I built a frame to slip over the condenser, then removal, cleaning and replacement would be a simple task.

How do I know of I have one on my unit? If I don't, what would it take to install one?

What do you consider an "old unit"? I don't have the install date handy, but if believe it was roughly 2006 but it's not one of the taller units you see these days. I believe it was installed during the period where vendors could install the lower efficiency units if they still had them in stock. Does that sound familiar?

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On 1/19/2014 8:02 PM, DerbyDad03 wrote:

SM: If the frame was good window screen, you could rinse that with a garden hose, as needed.

SM: Switch, on the small line coming off the compressor. Typically about an inch round, black with a red button. Since install involves brazing into the refrigeration line, needs a HVAC tech to install. I've not installed one, but from what I know, would need to pump out the refrigerant ("freon") then braze in, and put the refrigerant back. Two hours work, maybe. TDD can comment in more detail.

SM: I've also found useful to spray from a high angle, towards the ground. Rinse the dirt out, instead of packing it farther in. n Derby's case, he may have some success by taking the fan off the top, and rinse from inside out.
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