Modern air conditioning innovation has kept pace with other technological advancements, and today's AC units are more reliable and efficient than ever before. However, moving parts, sensors, controls and integrated circuits are exposed to enormous stress, especially when the outdoor weather is extreme. Since owning a central air conditioner represents a significant investment in comfort, homeowners are encouraged to proactively engage in maintenance activities that will enhance system performance and reduce the chance of an unexpected breakdown.
A Simple DIY Maintenance Program
While some level of DIY air conditioning upkeep is encouraged, any maintenance functions related to mechanical components, circuit boards, electrical wiring or refrigerant should only be performed by a licensed HVAC contractor. An annual preseason tune-up includes a variety of inspections, tests and calibrations performed by a certified HVAC technician. Any unauthorized modifications to an AC unit will void the warranty and may permanently damage the equipment.
Here’s a look at a few DIY air conditioning maintenance steps you should make a priority:
Change Air Filters
Changing the filter in your air conditioner on a regular basis is relatively simple, but it can pay huge dividends. Central filters remove harmful contaminants from the living area and also help keep your air conditioning equipment clean. Clogged filters restrict air flow, which forces your AC unit to run longer during each cycle. This severely degrades efficiency and also negatively impacts indoor air quality. Since internal components are under increased stress, repair costs rise and the equipment lifecycle is shortened.
Always make sure the system is disengaged before attempting any maintenance activities. Filters are located inside the air handler or mounted in a hinged return air grille. They slide out easily from the bracket, and the size of the filter is usually printed right on the frame. Your HVAC contractor can provide information on different filter options and capture efficiencies. Air filter changes are recommended monthly for disposable filters and quarterly for advanced high-efficiency cabinet filters.
Cleaning Air Grilles
Many HVAC systems are under a slight negative pressure, which allows dirt, debris and other contaminants to be drawn directly into the airstream. As the particulate matter moves through the air distribution system, it begins to collect on the louvers of the supply registers and return grilles. If unaddressed, the buildup can cause an airflow restriction and can contribute to the growth of mold and fungi.
A medium bristle brush is effective at dislodging the surface dirt, and a powerful vacuum is also effective. To ensure the registers are cleaned properly, you can remove the screws that attach the component to the register box. This will allow you to clean the register from the backside and also remove any debris that has accumulated inside the local ductwork. Be careful not to damage the enamel paint on the exterior of the register. Always take appropriate time to ensure the register is positioned snugly in the box before fastening the screws.
Clear Debris From the Condensing Unit
The condenser plays a critical role in the refrigeration cycle, and it uses a large fan to dissipate heat through the condensing coil. As a result, dirt, dust, leaves and other debris collect on the fins and block the airflow, which reduces the air conditioner's efficiency. Always remove any trash that has accumulated around the unit and prune overhanging vegetation to create a buffer zone around the condenser.
A soft brush can be used to dislodge any material that is wedged between the fins. On some units, you will have to unscrew the lid to gain full access to access to the coil. Use a hose to clean off stubborn debris, and vacuum the coil after it has fully dried. A special tool called a "fin comb" can be purchased at most hardware stores to straighten the aluminum fins for maximum efficiency.
For Comprehensive Maintenance Services
If you are not quite comfortable with AC maintenance upkeep, contact one of the HVAC professionals on this website. They can provide complete air conditioning services for virtually any major brand of equipment.
Written by Randy Gailit