Like your car, your central air conditioning system is a major investment. Like your car, you expect your air conditioner to work whenever you need it to and to last for a long time. Such expectations are not unreasonable. But while most people remember to change their car’s oil every 3,000 miles and give it other routine maintenance, they don’t give much, if any, thought to maintaining their air conditioner. They simply turn it on in the summer and turn it off in the winter.
As the U.S. Department of Energy explains, such a lackadaisical attitude ensures that your air conditioner’s performance will steadily decline while your energy bills will steadily increase. Preventative maintenance is a must.
Air Conditioner Filters
You’ll find your air conditioner’s filters somewhere along its return duct. The most common location is in your furnace, but they could be located in your walls, ceilings, or in the air conditioner itself. Cleaning and/or replacing these filters every month or so during the cooling season is the most important thing you can do to prolong the life of your air conditioner and save yourself excessively high summer utility bills.
A dirty or clogged filter blocks the system’s normal airflow and significantly reduces its efficiency. In addition, when the normal airflow is obstructed, air may carry dirt directly into the evaporator coil, impairing its capacity to absorb heat.
Air Conditioner Coils
Your air conditioner has two coils: an evaporator coil and a condenser coil. Both can collect dirt over time, even with routinely changed air filters. A dirty evaporator coil not only reduces air flow, but also becomes insulated by its covering of dirt, making it harder to absorb heat. Check your air conditioner’s evaporator at least once a year and clean it whenever necessary.
Your air conditioner’s condenser coils are at even more risk since they are outdoors and therefore subject to almost continuous dirt, dust, falling leaves, flying grass clippings, and all the other environmental hazards associated with most yards. To minimize these hazards as much as possible, try to keep the area around your air conditioner cleared of foliage and other debris for at least two feet on all sides of it.
Both your evaporator coil and condenser coil have aluminum fins which are rather fragile and often become bent, blocking airflow through the coils. Buying a fin comb from an air conditioning wholesaler allows you to “comb” the fins back into nearly original condition.
Another thing to watch out for is clogged drain channels. If your air conditioner’s condensate drains are dirty and/or clogged, your AC unit will not be able to efficiently reduce humidity. This could result in discolored walls or carpets. Occasionally passing a stiff wire through the drain channels can reduce or prevent such malfunctioning and also will keep indoor humidity at a reasonable level.
It’s always a good idea to cover your outdoor AC unit during the winter. You can buy a cover online or at most home improvement centers. They are reasonably priced and protect your air conditioner from all those leaves that fall in the autumn, as well as winter storm debris.
Air Conditioner Repair
Even with the best maintenance, eventually your air conditioner, just like your car, will break down and require repairs. Your local heating and cooling company can give you all the air conditioning facts you need to know to get your air conditioner back to working like new.
Benefits of Air Conditioner Maintenance
You receive many benefits from keeping your air conditioner in good shape, including the following:
- Lower utility bills
- Healthier indoor air
- Fewer emergency repairs
- Warranty protection
Maintaining your air conditioner makes practical and financial sense. Preventing problems and fixing minor ones when they occur let you enjoy the comfort of your system without having to worry that it might go out at exactly the wrong time.