Finally, the warm weather is almost here. That means the long, hot, dog days of summer are right around the corner. Is your air conditioner ready for another season? Now is the time to get it ready.
Note that maintenance and repair on the internal workings of the system need a qualified HVAC service technician, however, you can do a number of cleaning and minor maintenance tasks to keep your system functioning as well as it can. Also, these DIY maintenance jobs can keep the professional service charges lower. Here are a few things you can do to help keep your air conditioner expenses lower through another hot season:
1. Replace all filters
Dirty filters cause the air conditioner to work harder as it moves the air in and out of your house. If the filters become too dirty they can cause the system to malfunction and perhaps freeze up. Dirty filters also can reduce the air quality in your home and aggravate allergies. Air filters should be replaced every three months. They are inexpensive, and many people find it convenient to buy several so they have plenty on hand when they need to be replaced.
2. Trim any trees and shrubs that have grown too close to the outdoor condenser unit
Plants that become overgrown near the condenser unit can interfere with the air flow it needs to function efficiently. Also, plants that have hang over or brush against the condenser will shed leaves and debris, which accumulate in the unit and interfere with its operation. They also make it difficult for any HVAC service technician to access the mechanism to inspect and service it.
3. Clean debris from the outdoor condenser unit
After a winter of sitting idle, the outdoor condenser often becomes covered with leaves, its base surrounded by windblown debris. You should clean all of that away. First, turn off the power to the air conditioning system and turn off the circuit breaker that operates it. Once you are certain the power is off, clear debris from on top and around the base of the condenser. After clearing away the debris, take a hose and spray the fan blades inside of the condenser. Hold the hose about four inches from the sides of the condenser and spray it off using up and down motions. Keep spraying until the water running out of the bottom of the unit becomes free of large particles and runs fairly clear. Let it dry for at least ten minutes before powering the system on.
If your condenser was very dirty and covered with debris, consider investing in an inexpensive but sturdy tarp or special cover for the condenser at the end of the season when you will turn the air conditioner off until the next summer. Cover the condenser when you are sure you will not use the air conditioner again until after the winter, and you will not have a filthy, litter-covered condenser to clean next year.
4. Replace any deteriorated insulation on the coolant lines
Check the lines going from the condenser into the house. If any of the insulated sleeves are deteriorating or frayed, replace them with new insulation sleeves that can be purchased at any hardware store.
5. Learn the signs that your air conditioner needs service
Test your system before summer starts. Is it cooling adequately? If not, turn the unit off for an hour. Set the thermostat at the ambient temperature, and then lower it in increments of four degrees each hour. If that fails to return the house to a comfortable temperature, you need to call an HVAC contractor. If it does not work at all, yet you have ensured that the power is on, you will likely need a professional technician to inspect and repair it. By catching the problem before the hot days set in, you will have avoided the cost of an emergency repair.
Call A Professional HVAC Contractor
Doing these minor maintenance items yourself prevents many small problems from becoming big ones and can save you money on service calls. However, proper maintenance of your system requires a professional HVAC contractor. A reputable, qualified contractor will inspect and service the inner workings of the system. It is important that you contract for this yearly service.
Not only will regular professional service prolong the life of your system, most HVAC contractors will give their service clients priority service for service calls and at reduced fees.