Air Conditioning Maintenance: The Ultimate Guide (Summer 2018 Update)

The air conditioning system or unit makes life livable during the hot months, but it’s also a complicated system that eats up a lot of energy. Because of this, it needs to be checked regularly, either by an HVAC professional or by the homeowner. The good news is that there are some things a homeowner can do to make sure their air conditioner is in tip-top shape through the months of summer.

First Things

Before anything else is done, the air conditioner’s power needs to be shut off. Do this at the shut off box near the unit and then at the breaker box to make doubly sure.

Clean the Outside

Remove the fan grill or the cage from the unit, and clear all debris from inside and around it. This can be done by hand, with a wet dry vacuum or with a garden hose. Take off the unit’s outer covers, aim the garden hose inside, and spray water through the fins to rinse away the debris between them. Make sure that the hose spray is gentle, as the air conditioner fins are delicate. If the fins are really filthy, they can be cleaned with a special spray.

Check the fins. If any are bent, straighten them, for bent fins can affect the unit’s efficiency. Some homeowners use a butter knife to do this, but a special comb for straightening air conditioner fins can be ought. The worker must be gentle with whatever tool is used.

After this is done, put the fan cage or grill back on the unit. Use a leaf rake to sweep the debris from around the condenser. Make sure that there is no vegetation within two feet of the unit to help air flow around it properly. It’s also good idea to make sure that the unit is level. The compressor in a unit that is not level will not have as long a working life as it should. Use a level tool, and add shims to the unit to return it to level. This job probably needs two people. However, if the air conditioner is also a heat pump it is acceptable for it to be a bit angled away from the house to allow for winter run off.

Clean the Inside

After the outside of the unit is cleaned, it is time to clean the evaporator coils. These coils are found behind a door inside the unit. Once they are exposed, brush them gently to clean them then spray them with a non-rinse cleaner. This cleaner foams and drips into the drain pan, so the homeowner should be sure to clean out the pan. After the drain is cleaned, a solution of one part bleach and one part water should be poured down it. Some homeowners place a tablet in the pan to discourage algae. If the drain is clogged with algae or mold, clean it out with a wet/dry vac then replace the evaporator coil door.

The last thing to do before turning the power back on is change the filter. Some filters can be hosed down and reused. Replacing or reusing the filter should be done twice a year, at the beginning of the cooling season and the beginning of the heating season.

Finally, turn the power back on.

Charlie Teschner started MESA Plumbing, Heating, and Cooling in 1982. Charlie has a journeyman and master plumber’s license. He was raised with a strong work ethic and he now applies those values to tasks such as Longmont, CO heating repair.

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