Air Conditioning Maintenance Tips for Homeowners
For homeowners with a central air conditioner (or refrigerated air), there are things you can do to extend the life of your air conditioning unit, just with a little TLC. DIY maintenance is definitely within reach. So read the following blog and get ready to become better acquainted with your air conditioner this spring!
Our Top AC Maintenance Tips for DIYers
There are certain times when you need to call on an HVAC technician to come to your home to perform air conditioner maintenance or repair. But, for all the DIYers out there, there are steps you can take on your own, too, to keep your air conditioning system operating optimally.
As we’re gearing up for cooling season, ideally, you can do some or all of these tasks, so your air conditioner is set up for success when the days start to get warm.
Clean or Replace the Air Filter
Replacing air filters is probably the most common DIY tip for air conditioner maintenance and a great way to potentially save money on your utility bills. If you use paper air filters that you can get at the hardware store, it’s recommended that you change them every three months. Your furnace uses this same return air vent and the air conditioner, so the filters do need to be replaced year-round.
If you’ve never done it before, don’t stress. There are lots of great tutorials out there on YouTube and even a brand-new DIYer can do it. Just turn off the power to the unit, either on the switch that is nearby the unit or on your thermostat, pull out the dirty filter, and put in a clean filter.
You’ll notice your filter has dimensions on the side, so if you’re not sure what size to get when purchasing a replacement filter, take note of those dimensions and bring them with you to the hardware store when you get new ones.
At Bosque Heating, Cooling and Plumbing, we love electrostatic filters because they make the air in your home so much cleaner! And, while the initial expense is higher than paper air filters, these can be washed off and used repeatedly, potentially for a lifetime.
Electrostatic filters need to be cleaned every 30-60 days and can be vacuumed off with a shop vac or taken outside and hosed down with a garden hose. If you can see daylight through the filter, you know that it is clean.
Clean Evaporator and Condenser Coils
A brave DIYer can absolutely clean the evaporator coils and condenser coils on their AC unit. The evaporator coil is located on the part of the AC unit inside the home, and the condenser coil is located outside the home.
Cleaning the Evaporator Coil
To clean the evaporator coil, first, turn off the AC. Then remove the removable panel on your furnace to expose the evaporator coils. The simplest way to clean them is with compressed air if you have an air compressor. You can simply blow any dirt and debris off the coils. You can also use a soft brush to remove more stubborn dirt.
If those methods don’t work, it may be time to hire a professional because they’ll have access to commercial cleaning solutions and know how to apply them safely. If you’re doing regular maintenance of an air conditioner, it shouldn’t get too bad anyway.
Once you’re done, put the removable panel back on, and don’t forget to turn the power back on.
Cleaning the Condenser Coil
The condenser coil is in the outdoor unit and is simple to access and clean. First, turn off the power to the unit and then remove the outer layer of your unit (you’ll probably need a screwdriver or cordless drill), and then the coils will be exposed.
In this process, you’ll also be removing the condenser fan and setting it off to the side, although it will still be connected to power. That’s why you and to ensure the power is off to the unit completely at the breaker.
You can start by using a soft brush or broom to brush off any leaves, dead insects, and other debris. Hose down the unit from the inside out, making sure not to get any of the electrical elements wet. Water alone might do the trick, although some people also like to spray the coils down with soapy water or a gentle, all-purpose cleaner.
If you use soap or a cleaner, you’ll want to hose the unit down again to remove any residue.
Clean and Straighten AC Fins
While you have the exterior of the condenser removed, it’s a good time to straighten out any bent coil fins. You can purchase a fin comb at the hardware store, and use this tool to get bent fins back in line. The fins are the thin metal slats on the condenser unit and they’re designed to move warm air away from the unit. Putting bent fins back in line will help the system’s efficiency.
Clean the Condenser Fan
The condenser fan is the part of the condenser at the top of the unit. The fan will remain connected to the unit unless you decide to connect it completely by unplugging it. If you do, remember which cord plugs back into where, because there will be several electrical lines. Cleaning the condenser fan is simple, though, once you get it removed. Use compressed air, a soft brush, or even a soapy rag to wipe down the fan blades.
Clear Debris and Areas Surrounding the Unit
Perhaps the simplest thing you can do to keep the condenser unit operating optimally is to clean the area around it. Depending on the layout of your home, your landscaping, and the weather, leaves and other debris can build up between your home and the condenser unit, or around the unit in general.
It’s a good practice to use a broom, a leaf blower, or even just your hands and clear away piles of leaves and anything else built up there. You wouldn’t want to store piles of lumber or else next to or leaning on your condenser unit either, for optimal airflow.
Clean the Vents
Some people hire duct cleaning companies to come periodically to clean the ducts at their home. But there are some things you can do on your own that might do the trick. You can remove the vent covers and wash them off with soapy water to remove any residue and dirt.
You can also use a shop vac or even your regular vacuum with a hose attachment to vacuum out the vents as far as you can reach. This works as a DIY solution between periodic cleaning from a professional.
How often should an air conditioner be serviced?
Your air conditioner ideally should be serviced at the beginning of the cooling season to make sure it’s working efficiently throughout the summer heat. Also, the fall and winter are when leaves may have piled up around your outside unit and so your condenser will need a little TLC in the spring.
Conversely, your furnace needs yearly maintenance in the fall before the heating season.
Regular inspections and maintenance
Regular inspections and maintenance are vital in prolonging the life of your AC and preventing outages in your cooling over the summer. You may be able to perform these maintenance tasks on your own. And if you are, that’s great.
If you’re not able to do them or just don’t have the time or desire to do them yourself, an HVAC company can perform yearly maintenance on your AC in the spring and on your furnace in the fall.
Can I reduce my energy bills?
Not only can you prolong the life of your AC with maintenance, but you can also save money on your energy bills. If your AC unit has to work harder because of dirt and debris build up on any part of your air conditioner, inside or outside, it’s not running as well as it could be. That means it’s working harder to create the same amount of cooling, which you end up paying for. A more efficient AC costs less to operate.
Extend the Life of Your AC Unit!
Routine maintenance is the best way to keep your AC operating for many years. And while you can do a reasonable amount of maintenance on your own, a professional can replace parts and have more experience with potential red flags. They can repair parts before you have a costly cooling outage in the future.
Call Bosque Heating, Cooling and Plumbing to schedule regular maintenance for your AC, so you don’t have to think about it. Plus, you’ll gain the peace of mind of knowing that a professional is taking care of it instead of trying to carve out time to work on an appliance you might not be too familiar with.