With fall and winter weather in full swing, now is the time to think about all the things you should have, but haven't had time to do to your air conditioner. Slacking off on maintenance is one of the reasons why emergency repairs are often needed, since a poorly maintained system can break down at practically any given moment.
The best way to avoid the hassle and expense of emergency repairs involves being proactive about air conditioning maintenance. The following offers 10 excellent tips that can help keep your A/C system in top shape year-round.
Always Check and Change Your Air Filters
Air filters are easily overlooked, but they're often responsible for much of your air conditioning system's wear and tear. A clogged air filter can easily overtax your A/C unit, robbing it of its performance as well as overall efficiency.
Take a good look at your air filter. If it's completely caked with dust and debris, toss it and install a brand-new air filter. Ideally, this should be done at least every 3 months (or every month, if you're a stickler for good indoor air quality).
Inspect Your HVAC Components for Signs of Wear and Tear
Let your eyes do the walking and check every square inch of your air conditioning system. What you'll want to look for is outward signs of wear and tear on major HVAC components, including the compressor and refrigerant lines. Don't forget to check for signs of rust and corrosion.
Check and Tighten Loose Electrical Connections
Check all of your air conditioner's electrical connections and make sure they're all snuggly fitted into their appropriate sockets and connectors. If you happen to see any damaged wiring, you'll want to have an experienced electrician repair or replace the wiring.
Keep Your Condenser and Evaporator Coils Clean
Over time, dust, dirt and even mold can build up on the evaporator and condenser coils, making it harder for your air conditioner to operate efficiently. You can clean your evaporator coil by using some mild detergent and a soft-bristle brush. For the condenser coil, all you'll need is a garden hose to rinse away leaves and other debris that may have fallen on the coil. Just be careful not to bend the delicate fins lining the coils.
Give Your Drain Pans and Drainage Lines a Good Cleaning
Debris blockages can lead to standing water in your drain pans and drainage lines, eventually leading to mold and mildew. You can use your shop vacuum and a small plumbing snake to bust up clogs and vacuum standing water out of the pan.
Inspect and Clean Your Blower Fan Blades
Give your blower fan blades a good wipe-down with a soft cloth to get rid of any dust or debris. Afterwards, take a close look at the blades and check for any nicks, gouges, cracks or other signs of damage or deformation.
Check the Condition of Your Belts and Pulleys
Blower fan belts and pulleys can deteriorate with time and use. Make sure the fan belt isn't cracked, frayed or glazed over. Belts with missing teeth should also be replaced as soon as possible. Don't forget to check the pulleys for shaft play, bearing wear and other signs of wear and tear.
Have Your Refrigerant Charge Checked
Too much or too little refrigerant can easily turn into a death sentence for many air conditioners. For this task, you'll need to have a trained and certified HVAC technician measures the amount of refrigerant your air conditioner currently has. Pressurize refrigerant can be dangerous to handle without the proper tools and safety equipment.
Consider Having Your Ductwork Inspected and Cleaned
Did you know that your ducts are often a major source of efficiency losses? Clogged ducts make it harder to efficiently deliver conditioned air, while leaky ducts can cause as much as 30 percent of it to escape elsewhere. In many cases, you can use a shop vacuum with a soft brush attachment to clean your most accessible ductwork. Hard-to-reach places often call for a professional touch.
Keep Your Air Conditioner Protected From the Winter Elements
If you're not planning on using your air conditioner during the fall and winter months, then you'll definitely want to protect it against falling debris, snowfall and intrusion by rodents and other small creatures. The best way to do this is by covering the condenser cabinet fan with a piece of plywood. You can also use a breathable mesh cover that keeps leaves and animals out without restricting air flow.