Maintenance for Homeowners

Air Conditioner Maintenance

Enjoying the comforts of an air-conditioned space may have become something that is taken for granted.  However, should the A/C unit break down, the importance of air conditioner maintenance really hits home.

Proper maintenance prevents a lot of serious and expensive problems down the road.

Why Air Conditioner Maintenance Is Important

Let’s face it.  Air conditioning is an investment.  It’s an investment in your home, your comfort and with improved air quality, your health.  However, if and when your A/C unit breaks down, it costs both time and money.

Depending on the age of your air conditioning unit and exactly the nature of the malfunction, it can cost a lot of money.

By performing your own routine air conditioner maintenance, along with the help and keen eye of a professional HVAC contractor, you can prevent disasters both big and small.  This keeps the A/C unit running efficiently and extends the life of your equipment.

Coming up with the funds to pay for costly repairs in either a residential or commercial setting can be a serious setback.

For commercial properties, the lack of proper air conditioning and stable temperatures also causes problems for other expensive items such as security equipment, computer systems and mold and moisture damage throughout the building.

Moisture, mold and excessive heat can wreak havoc to the point of the breakdown and destruction of valuables and other investments.

Air Conditioner Maintenance 101 – What You Can Do

For residential A/C units, it’s important to perform frequent visual inspections of your equipment both inside and out.

For a whole house cooling system, pay attention to both the interior and exterior components of the A/C system.  Typically for a whole house cooling system, the interior parts include the evaporator and blower.  The exterior parts consist of the condenser and compressor, or the free-standing unit located outdoors.

Before attempting any kind of air conditioner maintenance yourself, shut off power to both the interior and exterior components completely.  Better safe than sorry for anyone attempting DIY maintenance.

The interior power should be shut off at the breaker box.  Look for the exterior power shut off located somewhere near the exterior compressor unit.  If unsure, ask your HVAC installer for the specific locations of these shut-offs.

If you notice leaves, branches and other debris inside the compressor unit and interfering with the operation of the condenser coil, gently remove the screws and open the top vent.  Gently sweep or vacuum out the dirt and debris from the condenser coil.  You can spray the coil with light pressure water from a hose, but never use extreme power or force which could cause permanent damage to the coil.

Replace the top vent, making sure the screws are tightened properly.

Clean out the smaller vents on the front and sides of the compressor unit (called “fins”) by gently vacuuming, sweeping or spraying gently with water.  Again, remove any branches, leaves or other yard debris from blocked areas.  If the fins are bent, straighten them with a screwdriver for proper air venting and circulation.

Make sure the area around the compressor unit is clear and clean by sweeping away any piles of dirt or yard debris for proper air ventilation and circulation.

Check the unit with a level to avoid operating with an unbalanced compressor.

For the interior components, clean off any dirt or dust to make sure air is not blocked and water doesn’t get trapped from draining properly.  Check the drainage hose to make sure water is draining properly and to prevent frozen water or clogs from damaging the drainage hose.

Lastly, sweep the area around the furnace and change the filter.  If you have pets that shed or dusty conditions in your home, change the filter more often than twice per year.  It’s a good idea to check the filter periodically to ensure it’s clean.  If it’s not, the dust and potential allergens will circulate throughout your home.

Once you’ve completed your cleaning and inspection, turn the power back on to both interior and exterior components.

It’s still very important to call in an HVAC specialist to conduct an even more thorough inspection and perform advanced air conditioner maintenance.  They have the proper skills, training and equipment that are required to get into hard-to-reach places and look for additional equipment issues that go beyond basic cleaning and upkeep you can do yourself.

Air Conditioner Maintenance – Red Flags

Address clogs or blockages in vents and coils as soon as you spot them to keep the A/C unit running at maximum efficiency.  Blockages can cause the A/C unit to work harder to keep temperatures cool and take its toll by parts breaking down.  Harder working A/C units also have the potential to become overheated, which lends itself to the potential of fires and burnt out fans, coils, etc.  This may result in serious repair or replacement bills and worse in the case of a fire.

Keeping a regular maintenance schedule and log of completed inspections keep your air conditioner in top working order and prolongs the life of your cooling system.

Air Conditioner Maintenance - Key Takeaways

  • Maintenance is the all-important factor in prevention of problems, breakdowns and costly repairs.

  • Perform a visual inspection at least once every 3 months.  Keep both the interior and exterior components of the A/C unit clean and clear from debris.

  • Call for service immediately when overheating, strange knocks and noises or inefficient cooling occurs.

  • Keep a log of dates of inspections and results for easy reference.

  • Talk to your HVAC contractor for upcoming concerns and EPA changes to be prepared for servicing and/or replacement of your air conditioner.