Maintain your Comfort by Maintaining Your Air Conditioner
There are numerous points of air conditioner maintenance that individuals forget to deal with and pretty soon, whatever it is they ignored cannot function properly. Maintaining your air conditioner is one of those things. There are basic maintenance items you can perform yourself and things you need to have a professional deal with.
Believe it or not, one of the most commonly neglected tasks in maintaining air conditioner units that causes the most system failures are air filters. The should be changed BEFORE they re completely clogged with dust and debris.
If your filter is clogged, bad things can happen. For example:
- The evaporator coil will ice up if the system air flow is blocked, which will further impede your system’s performance since the ice isn’t allowing air flow.
- With the air flow hindered, there isn’t any cool draft flowing into your home. This can result in overheating the blower motor, or even the indoor fan motor. It may not permanently damage the motor, new issues may arise, like the blower failing completely.
- With evaporator coil frozen, no heat is being absorbed by the refrigerant, which means it doesn’t boil into a vapor and remains liquid. The liquid can potentially back up into the compressor, where liquid can cause major damage and possibly make the compresser inoperable.
Definitely recommended to change your air filter on a regular basis, usually every 3-5 weeks, depending on your individual situation.
Basic Guidelines for Maintaining your Air Conditioner
Outside condenser coils need to be kept clean. You can hose them down with water, but be sure to turn off the power first. Run the water through the coils, but avoid other things like the fan motor. Condenser units are designed to work in all kinds of weather, but it’s always better to minimize exposure to water for any electrical components.
Cleaning Tips for the Condenser
- Weed eaters and condensers don’t mix well. They can damage the unit, so be extremely careful.
- While a seasonal cleaning is usually sufficient, the same rule applies here as with air filters, clean them when they’re dirty.
- It may be helpful to turn off your system when you mow the grass as you’re kicking up alot of dust and debris which can be sucked into the coils.
- With regard to weed eaters, as we mentioned earlier, watch the wires.
- There are condenser covers available on the market that many use to protect their unit during the winter months, but be sure to power the system down first. The covers keep the leaves and such out of the unit while it’s not being used.
- Be sure to take care not to use too much pressure when hosing off the coils or you may bend the fins. There are fin brushes that will straighten them if they become damaged.
- Clear the area around the condenser and make sure there isn’t anything blocking the unit’s air low or performance and efficiency may be effected.
Professional Support for your Air Conditioner
It’s highly recommended you have an annual maintenance visit from a qualified technician. Here are the basic functions that they should perform.
- Examine the thermostat– generally the universal first step
- They’ll check and change the air filter. If you recently changed it, then they should leave you another. It’s a good idea to tell them your filter size when you set the appointment just to make sure they bring the correct filter.
- Airflow from the supply to the return across the evaporator coil will be measured.
- The temperature from the supply to the return will also be measured to provide a basic differential temp called a ‘Delta T’ which can be compared to a chart indicating whether the unt is working properly.
- They’ll clean the coils and examine the electrical system, checking for problems with amp readings, low readings, and connections that may be loose.
- The refrigerant charge will be checked to see if it’s low, which indicates you probably have a leak. The service tech can top it off or repair it, if required.
- If applicable, the motors will be oiled.
- They will verify the system is operating in proper sequence.
- Cleaning the evaporator coil will sometimes cost extra, if required. A dirty coil indicates a filter issue or perhaps leaking ductwork on the return.
- The duct work should be checked for leaks and ensure supply vents are open and clear.
Many service companies will offer an air conditioner maintenance agreement, designed to schedule maintenance in the Fall and Spring, ensuring your system is working efficiently in both the summer and winter. Often you will be offered parts discounts and priority service should a breakdown occur. Be sure to read any agreement carefully, as with any legal document.
Keep in mind that regular maintenance will save you in the long run, both in efficiency and money. You’ll use less electricity when your system is working as it was designed and reduce or eliminate unexpected breakdowns. Most importantly, your system will keep you and your loved ones comfortable year ‘round.