Are Dogs Ruining Your AC?

As a responsible homeowner, you surely are aware of the importance of maintaining your central heating and cooling system. And if you have an air conditioner or a heat pump system then one of the units you have to maintain is your outdoor unit. We’ve discussed details of this unit in previous blog posts noted below:

The talented technicians here at GAMA Air have come across some odd situations over the years. One of them has to do with outdoor units that start disintegrating. That’s right! Just starting to fall to pieces. Let’s explain.

One of the key components of an outdoor unit, whether you have a standard air conditioner or a heat pump system, is the condenser coil. This is where the heat is either ejected to the outdoors cooling your house down, or where the heat is absorbed from the outdoor air to heat your home. No matter how you look at it, this coil is an essential part of the system. If it becomes clogged with leaves, grass clippings or just dirt, the efficiency of the system will be adversely affected. But what would cause it to start disintegrating? In a word: Acid.

A fact of life: Dogs mark their territory with urine. You remember the classic image of a dog urinating on a fire hydrant? Well, they are not partial to fire hydrants. Dogs may urinate on just about anything: trees, sign posts, telephone poles, and yes, you guessed it, air conditioning units. They may be random dogs roaming the streets, or your own dogs.

When dogs urinate on the condenser coil of an air conditioning unit or a heat pump unit, the effects are corrosive. The acid in the urine will start to dissolve the more delicate parts of the coil, that is the fins which are often made of very thin aluminum. If the situation is neglected, and the marking of territory continues, the long-term effect is that the fins will disintegrate. This can greatly reduce the efficiency of your unit making it work harder and longer to keep your home comfortable. And it can even start eating through the metal tubes themselves creating extremely small holes where the refrigerant can leak out of the system, resulting in even more problems.

What do you do? Stop the dogs from urinating on your equipment. That is top priority. You may need to put a fence around the unit, making sure it still allows airflow around the condenser. But what about the damage already caused? Please call a trusted professional AC service company to have them inspect your system and provide a recommendation on what to do. But here are some options you may have to consider:

  • The damage is visible but minimal. In this case you may be better off keeping the damage from getting worse, but leaving the system as is. You will have decreased efficiency, but it may not warrant a major repair.
  • The damage is about 25% or more of the coil. In this case repair is almost unavoidable, but you will have to consider the overall age of your unit, and what the cost of repair versus replacement will be. If your unit is relatively new, then it may be enough to replace the coil if it is less than half of what it would cost you to replace the entire outdoor unit. But if your unit is over 10 years old, and/or the cost to replace the coil is more than half the cost of replacing the entire unit, then a complete changeout might be advisable. Of course, if the coil is no longer available as a replacement part, then you will have no choice but to replace the entire outdoor unit.

Do you have a question about a repair you think your central air system needs? Visit our Ask an Expert page, fill out the form, and the resident expert here at GAMA Air will respond quickly with the answer.

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