How to Maintain Your Air Conditioner
Keeping your AC in excellent shape involves proper unit maintenance. If you’re in the market for a home inspection or learning about appliance care, we’ve got you covered. Here’s what you need to know to keep your AC running smoothly.
Replace Your Filter
Filters are an important part of functional air conditioning and must be changed regularly. Clogged or dirty filters limit airflow, which results in lower efficiency. What’s more, obstructed airflow reroutes air away from the filter, which creates dirt deposits into the evaporator coil. As a result, the coil no longer absorbs heat properly, which inadvertently warms the system.
If you have central AC, search for the filter along the length of the return duct. Filters are commonly found in walls, ceilings, or in the AC unit itself. Room air conditioners usually contain a filter in the grill that faces the room.
No two air conditioners are completely alike, and neither are their filters. Check your model’s specific requirements, and be sure to use the correct type. For instance, some filters are reusable while others are not. In addition, heavy AC use or hot weather may require more frequent filter replacement.
Clean Your Coils
Most air conditioners have evaporator and condenser coils that collect dirt over time. The evaporator coil won’t get very dirty if your filter is clean. However, it is normal for some dirt to accumulate over time as part of regular use. This debris limits airflow and insulates the coil, which prevents it from absorbing enough heat.
As a rule of thumb, it’s a good idea to check your air coil once a year for proper maintenance. Keeping your coil free and clear lets your AC run more efficiently for a cooler temperature overall.
Outdoor coils are part of an AC unit located outdoors. They can become especially dirty depending on the surroundings. For example, an outdoor coil located near sand, dust, or foliage collects considerable debris. Check the exterior of your coil to determine whether it needs to be cleaned.
Outdoor dirt is difficult to get rid of altogether, although you should take steps to limit it. For example, leaves, grass clippings, and dryer vent dust could all contribute to a clogged outdoor coil. Clean the area around your AC unit by removing debris and trimming nearby plants. Allow air to flow freely at least two feet around its edges.
Hire a Technician
Some jobs are easy to do yourself, while others are best left to the pros. Consider hiring a technician if your air conditioner is acting up or if you’re worried about damage. Technicians are specifically trained in HVAC repair, so they’ll be able to find and fix any problem you may have.
If you hire a technician, here’s what to expect from their visit:
- Check for duct leaks in the central AC
- Seal duct leaks, if applicable
- Monitor airflow in the evaporator coil
- Check and adjust refrigerant levels
- Use a leak detector to spot potential refrigerant leaks
- Ensure the heating and cooling systems do not run simultaneously
- Check electrical terminals
- Tighten and clean electrical connections
- Apply oil to motors
- Check belts for tightness and functionality
- Test thermostat accuracy
Common AC Problems
Like many appliances, your AC unit may malfunction over time. Here are a few of the most common air conditioner issues you will likely face.
If your refrigerator is low on refrigerant, it’s a matter of leakage or poor installation. If your unit is leaking, adding more refrigerant won’t solve the problem. Instead, a tech should fix the leak, test the unit, and charge your air conditioner with the correct amount of refrigerant.
If you don’t maintain your AC, it may result in performance problems. For example, failure to replace filters could lead to a more inefficient system and clogged conditioning coils. It could also shorten the life of your compressor fan.
Your air conditioner compressor and fan controls wear out over time. This is especially true if your unit is turned on and off frequently or if your system is oversized. (In other words, the unit should correspond to the actual size of your home since higher capacity systems are not more efficient.) In addition, wires and terminals are subject to corrosion, so ask your tech to check electrical connections.
The point of an AC is to keep your home cool and your environment comfortable. However, there’s more to that than appliances alone. Lower your energy costs and extend the life of your AC by keeping blinds or drapes closed during the day in the summer. You might also consider awnings for south-facing windows since they’re subjected to intense sunlight. The bottom line is relying on more than your AC alone for cool ambient temperatures.
A thermostat sensor located behind the control panel measures the air temperature in the evaporator coil. If the sensor is knocked out of place, the AC could malfunction. Keep your sensor near the coil without touching it. To adjust its position, gently bend the wire that keeps it in place.
If the weather is humid, check the condensate drain for potential clogging. Room air conditioners might drain improperly if they were not leveled upon installation.
Believe it or not, air conditioning systems are continually upgraded. That means that while your old system may still be standing, it’s likely no match for more current (and efficient) models. Check your unit for the seasonal energy-efficient ratio (SEER) or energy-efficient ratio (EER) for window units; the higher the number, the less your operational cost.
Keeping your AC up and running is a matter of routine maintenance. Ensure optimal performance by replacing filters, cleaning coils, and hiring technicians as needed.
Are you getting your house in order for a home inspection? If so, we’re happy to help. Pro Inspect Solutions offers a wide variety of services from qualified technicians in the Orlando area. We welcome any questions you may have and look forward to meeting you!