Is your AC running? If it’s not running as well as it used to and you’re like most other homeowners, you’ve probably fallen behind on some AC maintenance that you should have been doing regularly since AC installation. Thankfully, you might only be dealing with a minor maintenance issue, in which case you’d better go catch it before it turns into a major maintenance issue.
Minor air conditioner maintenance is easy and should be done by all homeowners with an AC unit. It can save you tons of money on ac repair and replacing, as a well-maintained unit will last much longer than one that’s been improperly cared for. Particularly during peak usage months, air conditioners are more likely to wear out or malfunction. By checking these three problems areas more regularly (and especially when your unit already isn’t working well), you can often avoid the costly call to the technician and extend the life of your air conditioner through and past this summer season. Here’s how to keep your cool when your AC unit won’t.
AC Maintenance Checklist:
- Check Filters: According to the US Department of Energy, checking, cleaning and/or replacing the filters is one of the most important parts of ac maintenance and can help solve common ac problems. There are two basic categories when it comes to filters: a category of filters that are reusable, which means they’ll need cleaned about every month and more often if you have pets, and a category of filters that are not reusable, meaning they’ll need to be replaced every 1-2 months under normal conditions. In each category, there are filters of different quality; higher quality filters will often be more expensive at first but will reduce the unit’s energy consumption in the long run (it won’t have to work as hard to do the same job).
- Check Coils: There are two coils subject to becoming dirty - the condenser coil and the evaporator coil. For central a.c. systems, the condenser coil is located outdoors and can very easily become dirty due to falling or dead leave, grass clippings, and so on. To make sure the coil stays cleaner for longer, remove debris around the unit and clip back hedges to allow at least 2 feet of clear space. The evaporator coil, on the other hand, is located indoors and will get dirty much slower if the filters are being cleaned regularly. However, when it does get dirty (it will eventually, even if you are taking care of the filters), it will be less able to absorb heat and keep the unit working properly. Clean it at least once a year.
- Check for Leaks: Though this is more of an issue with window ac units, all air conditioners have parts both indoors and outdoors and this provides opportunities for the leakage of cool air outdoors. Though leaks may be small, when cool air goes outside instead of inside, the unit has to work even harder to maintain a comfortable temperature indoors. That can lead to the unit wearing out or running into problems much faster than it would have without the leak, and that can mean costly repairs. For window units, you can use incense held near the unit/window seam to see if air is moving from inside to outside. For central air units, it may be necessary to contact a technician.
If you’ve gone through this checklist and your ac unit’s performance does not improve, or only improves slightly, you’ll probably need to contact a professional as your unit may need more serious maintenance or repairs.