What do poor airflow, blocked vents, dirty fins, clogged drains, filthy filters, and low coolant levels have in common? They’re all problems that can compromise the efficiency of your central air conditioning. Learning how to maintain your air conditioner can result in substantial savings, because a properly maintained system that operates efficiently minimizes your energy use and your electric bills. While the details will vary slightly depending on your specific system, completing certain basic tasks involving the interior unit (also known as the evaporator) and the exterior unit (which is called the condenser) will help to keep your central air conditioning system operating smoothly for years to come.
How to Maintain Your Air Conditioner
First, it’s important to note that any repair to your central air system is definitely a job for an HVAC professional. To ensure that you don’t damage the complex equipment, contact an experienced HVAC technician. In addition, we encourage you to schedule preventative maintenance visits twice a year to keep your system running smoothly. However, there are a few simple things you can do on your own if you’re wondering how to maintain your air conditioner. Use the quick procedure below to keep your central air humming along.
Gather the Necessary Equipment
Before you can begin, you will need to gather the necessary tools. Items that you are likely to need include the following:
- The owner’s manual for your air conditioner
- Gardening tools like pruners or a rake
- A screwdriver or cordless drill
- A soft brush
- A shop vacuum
- A fin comb
- A carpenter’s level
- Household bleach
Turn Off the Power
Before working on your HVAC system, turn off the power. There are separate power switches for the condenser and the evaporator; they should be located near their respective units. Alternately, you can turn off the air conditioning system’s power at your main electrical panel. Later, when you’re finished with this entire process, consult the owner’s manual for instructions on how to restart the system correctly.
Care for the Condenser
Plants and debris that obstruct air flow can compromise the unit’s efficiency, so start by clearing away any tall grass, hedges, or other vegetation that may have encroached on the space around the unit. Ideally, there should be two feet between the unit and any vegetation.
Next, remove the protective grill to expose the fins. Made from a lightweight aluminum, the fins are easily bent or crushed, so you’ll need to use a gentle hand as you either vacuum them or use a soft brush to clean them. While it may be tempting to grab the hose and rinse the fins clean, do it very cautiously. Using a hose can turn any dirt or grime into mud, and the pressure of the water might bend the delicate fins. Make sure you use only low pressure, spraying straight through the fins (not at an angle), and definitely do not use a high-pressure washer. What if you see damaged fins? Small sections can be straightened with a special tool called a fin comb that can be found at most appliance parts stores. If the damage is extensive, you will need to call in an HVAC pro to correct the problem. Then, carefully vacuum up any leaves or other debris that has found its way inside the unit and reassemble the unit. Finally, use a carpenter’s level to verify that the concrete pad that the condenser sits on is still level or within 1/8″ per foot to assist with water drainage under the unit.
Clean the Evaporator
Evaporators are often tucked away, but if you can access your evaporator, a good cleaning can help it work more smoothly. Start by opening the unit and gingerly vacuuming or brushing its fins. Then, vacuum out the blower compartment and change the unit’s filter. Next, locate the tube that drains away the water formed by condensation and clean it. If the weep hole (which feeds water from the drain pan to the drain tube) is blocked, clear it with a piece of wire – or sometimes a slight amount of air pressure will be needed. Then, use a small amount of household bleach to rinse the area near the weep hole and prevent fungal growth. Finally, reassemble the unit.
Request a Professional Touch
If you learn how to maintain your air conditioner, you can accomplish a lot on your own. However, you still need to schedule regular preventative maintenance appointments with a reliable heating and cooling company. Some maintenance tasks require a professional touch. For example, it’s vital that your air conditioner has sufficient coolant, and only an HVAC pro can check the coolant level. HVAC technicians can also check that the various moving parts in your system all have the proper lubrication. In addition, a professional has the knowledge and expertise to identify potential problems before they become major disasters.
Whether you try your hand at some basic air conditioner maintenance or prefer to leave it all to the professionals, ensuring that your system is properly maintained is crucial. Regular maintenance visits can keep your system functioning smoothly, prevent problems, and help ensure that your family stays cool and comfortable.
If you need help maintaining your current HVAC system or you’re interested in purchasing a new system, contact Long Refrigeration if you live in or near Springfield, Missouri. We offer a wide range of air conditioning services, including geothermal systems, air source heat pumps, and radiant floor heating. With our help, you won’t need to worry about learning how to maintain your air conditioner – we will take care of everything.
Right now, you can save up to $1,700 on a new Lennox system from Long Refrigeration using rebates or low monthly payment financing. To learn more about this limited-time offer (expiring June 9, 2017), please contact us today.