Tips for Servicing the Air Conditioning System in Your Home
There are very few household chores that are more rewarding than servicing the air conditioning system in your home! Not only will you save money on your electricity bills but you will also have the best chance of avoiding breakdowns and staying cool all summer. The temperature levels in your house play a very huge role in your home’s comfort which is why servicing your AC unit is very important. When your conditioner’s performance drops, comfort levels in your home also drop considerably causing problems that you can easily avoid.
Fortunately, there are a few things that you can do to help keep your air conditioning system in perfect shape. Your unit’s fins, ducts, and filters require regular servicing for them to work efficiently and properly throughout. Overlooking regular maintenance will not only ensure gradual decline in your conditioner’s performance but its energy use will also increase steadily.
On the other hand, a well serviced central AC unit will use less energy, run efficiently and cost considerably less money to maintain. A well maintained unit will also serve you for much longer before you replace it. Below are key tips below for servicing the air conditioning system in your home to your regular maintenance routine to keep your hard working cooling and heating system running smoothly.
Inspect Wiring and Other Related Components
Before you start working on your central air conditioning unit, make sure you turn off the power supply to the system. This can easily be done at the breaker panel or at the service disconnect on the outdoor unit and should always be accomplished anytime you work on or inspect a system connected to electricity.
Next, take out the access panel on the condensing unit and check if there are any overheating signs like blackened wires or melted insulation on the wires. Also confirm if the electrical connections are tight and if you have a test meter check the capacitors. Check the contactor switch and change it if there is excessive tapping. These are simple to perform maintenance checks/fixes that can keep your more expensive components from breaking down.
Keep Compressor Clear
Your air conditioning system relies on the outdoor unit to cool the hot air. And for the outdoor unit to work well, it needs to be free from walls and other barricades. The more air that can get to your unit, the better. The less air, the more likely your unit will get overheated and reduce component life.
So each fall and spring check the compressor for any obstructions and trim or prune any plants or shrubs if there are any around the unit. Also remove debris and leaves from the base and the sides of the compressor. Finally, ensure mulch does not impede the unit in any way.
Change Out Filters
If you are like most people, you do not change your air filter often enough, this allows dirt to get into the unit. Try to change the filter in your central air conditioning unit at least once every six months. The ideal time would be just before the cooling season starts and before the heating season starts.
Those who stay in very dusty areas may want to change the filter more often. And before you replace the filter make sure that the new filter has the same specifications as the old one. Also be cautious when dealing with HEPA or air purifying filters as they can considerably reduce the airflow in your unit. This will in turn cause the coil to freeze as a result of the reduced airflow.
To change the filter, look for the filter enclosure on the furnace where the fresh air duct connects with the unit. Remove the filter and insert the new filter then close the door. Make sure you match the air flow direction of the filter with that of the arrows on the system. They are typically inexpensive to replace and can be found at a variety of home improvement/DIY stores.
Clean the Coils
The condenser and evaporator coils usually become dirty with time and the more dirt that is on the coils the lesser the air the flow of your system. The condenser coils are likely to get dirtier much quicker as they are open to the outside environment and anything such as lawn clippings, falling leaves and dust can easily attach and start clogging them.
So it is good to check the coils regularly and clean them if there is any dirt on them. You can do this with a water/detergent mixture or with water alone (no pressure washing). Also try to keep foliage back about 2 to 3 feet from the coils. The more space, for clean airflow, the more effective your system will operate.
Clear Debris Away From Outside Unit
Just like any other outdoor unit, dirt, grass clippings and leaves will build outside the unit over time significantly reducing the system’s performance and air flow. To counter this, you can use a garden hose to wash out any dirt or debris outside the unit starting with top. Be careful not to damage or bend the fins of the coil and do not use a power washer for this.
Also, water alone with a little hand applied cleaning pressure should do the trick although a mixture of water/simple detergent can also be used to loosen debris. While the unit itself is hardy, there is no reason to run the risk of breaking a connector or damaging the unit by cleaning a bit more roughly than is needed. When in doubt, let the water do the dirty work of clearing debris.
Examine the Thermostat
Check the thermostat to ensure it is working well. If your system has a mechanical thermostat, consider upgrading it to a programmable one. A home automation feature such as a programmable thermostat will allow you to easily set the temperature in your house higher when you are not at home and then cool the house down a few minutes just before you get home.
This will ensure that you not only get back to a comfortable home but you also save money and energy by not having your central air conditioning system running the whole day when you are not around. This is a good way to help lower your electricity consumption and save money on your monthly electric bill too.
Hire a Professional
Finally, before every summer it is always good to have a regular servicing check and cleaning done on the system by a professional air conditioning service. They will check the fan motor, coils, control box, tubing, compressor and other components to make sure that system doesn’t break down when you need it the most. In addition, they will also inspect and adjust the refrigerant levels if necessary.
Other tasks professional will do while servicing the air conditioning include:
- Test for leaks with a leak detector
- Look for any refrigerant that must be removed from the system instead of allowing it to be released into the atmosphere
- Check for duct leakages in the system and seal them if there are any
- Check the airflow through the coils
- Confirm the right electric control order and ensure that the cooling and the heating system do not work at the same time
- Tighten and the clean connections, check electric terminals and apply the appropriate coating if necessary
- Check the oil motor and belts for wear and tightness
- Check the thermostat’s accuracy
Having a qualified air conditioning technician come out to your house and check the unit before it gets too hot has several benefits; It helps the unit perform better, last longer, it can help locate issues before they become costly problems and perhaps one of the best benefits is you can have the work done while the professional has the time to do the job right. Do not wait until it is too late!
A/C Bottom Line
Keep your central air conditioning unit well serviced and you will not only extend its lifespan but you will also save money on energy and expensive early replacement. And if you are not comfortable with performing some of the maintenance tasks listed here, don’t hesitate to hire a professional air conditioning service to do it for you. Remember to shut down the power to the system before performing any work on the unit and always follow the safety rules.
The bottom line is only a qualified person is going to be able to verify your unit is functioning properly, but proper air conditioning maintenance and having the unit professionally serviced every year or two will go a long way towards keeping your home comfortable. Follow these tips for servicing the air conditioning system in your home and enjoy all the benefits of having a cooler home during the warmer months of the year.