Getting ready for winter means making sure your windows are sealed and deciding when to put the holiday lights up. Another thing you should add to your fall to-do list is air conditioner maintenance. This will ensure the unit takes the minimal amount of damage during the winter and is completely ready to go when you turn it on next spring.
Wash Out the Condenser
At least once a year, you need to take the cover off your condenser and wash it out thoroughly. It is best to wait until all the leaves are off the trees to do this so that your efforts won't be wasted as soon as that last tree decides to give up its foliage.
- Turn off all power to the unit and remove the outer case. This is usually possible with just a screwdriver, but you should consult your manual if you aren't sure.
- Clean out all the debris and dirt from inside the unit. Start by putting on some gloves and pulling out leaves and twigs by hand. Once the chunks are removed, you can use your garden hose to wash off all the finer grit.
- Finally, check the condenser fins. They are easily bent, and even if you are careful during the cleanup, a few of them might be pushed out of place. You can twist them back into place with a flathead screwdriver. For major damage, you can find a fin comb, which is a specialized device for repairing bent fins.
Change Your Furnace Filter
Your furnace filter needs to be changed at least twice a year, but many homeowners leave the same filter in place, year after year. Just as outdoor grit will slowly wear down your condenser, dirt and grime that work their way into your fan system can do serious damage over time. Even in the short term. pulling air in through a dirty filter is going to kill the efficiency of your air conditioner.
How often you should actually change your filter depends on a couple of factors. While twice a year is the minimum number of times you should change it, in most cases you should switch it out far more often than that. If you have pets or children, there will be more grime getting tracked into your home, and if you use a higher quality filter, it will trap more particulate, causing it to fill up more quickly.
Cover the Condenser and Insulate the Lines
Winter is harsh on anything that remains outside. However, you aren't exactly going to pick up your condenser and stash it away in your garage for the winter. That means you need to protect your condenser where it is. To do this, you will need a couple of things. The first is something to cover the air conditioner with. This can be as simple as a tarp and some bungee cords or as complicated as a special made cover. Whichever method you choose, you just need to be sure that the cover is secure so it won't blow off during the first snowstorm.
While you are working on the air conditioner, check the lines that connect the condenser with the rest of the system. These lines should be wrapped in pipe insulation. This insulation needs to be replaced every few years. If needed, replace this insulation so that these lines don't freeze up during a cold snap.
Caring for your air conditioner doesn't take long, and you will benefit from the lower energy bills and longer life that a properly maintained air conditioner gives you back for your trouble. Of course, if you simply can't find time in your schedule, most HVAC technicians offer maintenance contracts to take care of this for you, as well as routine repair work that isn't easy to do yourself. For more information, contact a local air conditioning contractor.