There are several routine household maintenance chores that pay off more than keeping a maintenance schedule for your air conditioning unit. You’ll give yourself the best chance of staying cool all summer and avoiding emergency breakdowns, but you’ll also save money on your energy bills.
A well maintained AC unit will run operate efficiently, use less energy, and cost less money to run. A properly maintained system will also last longer before needing to be replaced.
Importance of Air Conditioner Maintenance
It should be noted that there are some chores that can be done by the average homeowner, and others should not be performed by anyone who doesn’t have the proper training and a license.
If at any time you are uncomfortable with performing maintenance tasks yourself, never hesitate to call on a professional to do it for you. Always observe safety precautions; and before you perform any work on your outdoor unit, ALWAYS shut down the power to the unit at your electrical box first.
Clean and/or Replace Air Filter
Replacing your air conditioner air filter (or cleaning it, if you have a reusable filter) is one of the most important regular AC maintenance chores. To save more money, you can purchase filter scans that will tell you exactly when you should replace filters as every home is different.
The air filter will be located either:
- Behind the return air grille on a wall or ceiling in a central room of the house.
- Inside the blower compartment of the air handler or furnace.
- In a slot on the side, bottom, or top of your furnace.
When the filter collects dust, dirt, and allergen particles, the air flow will decrease, making your system work harder to pump air through. The air flowing through your system will also become dirtier, dustier, and prone to triggering allergy and asthma symptoms for those residing in the home.
Check Components and Wiring
Before working on an air conditioner, ALWAYS start by turning off the power to the unit, which can be done at the service disconnect on your outdoor unit or at the main breaker panel of your home.
Next, remove the access panel on your condensing unit and see if you notice any signs of overheating – melted insulation on wires, blackened or burned-looking wires, etc.
You can also check any electrical connections to make sure they are tight. If you own an electrical test meter, you can check the capacitors in the unit.
Take a look at the contactor switch, and replace it if you see excessive pitting.
If you see any of the above problems and do not feel comfortable replacing the parts yourself, always call a local heating and air conditioning expert to work on it for you.
Examine the Thermostat
Check your thermostat to make sure it’s working properly and keeps your home at the right temperature. If you have an older, mechanical type thermostat, consider upgrading to a programmable model.
A programmable thermostat allows you to set the temperature higher when no one is home (do not turn the AC off, just up), and cool the house down about 30 minutes before people arrive home for the evening.
That way you’ll always have a comfortable home waiting for you, and you’ll save energy and money by not having your AC on all day when no one is at home.
Check Condenser Unit Fan
Turn the power off to your air conditioner unit, and check the fan mounted on the top of the outside condenser unit to make sure it’s still in good condition. Replace the fan blades if there are any chips or cracks visible in one or more of the blades.
If you have an older air conditioner unit, the fan motor bearings may need to be regularly oiled as well.
Clean Outside Unit
Over time leaves, dirt, grass clippings, etc. will build up on the outside of the air conditioner unit, decreasing system capacity and reducing air flow.
After shutting off the power to the unit, use a garden hose to gently wash out the debris, starting at the top with the hose at about a 45° angle. Make sure not to bend or damage the delicate fins on the coil. Do NOT use a power washer as it can damage your AC unit.
Trimming any shrubs or other plants back from around your air conditioner will keep it from impeding any air flow to and from the unit.
First posted in www.todayshomeowner.com