Maintaining your air conditioner is the key to saving money on your utility bills and overall maintenance costs. Scheduling routine maintenance with your AC service provider will ensure that your unit is functioning properly and running as efficiently as possible. On the other hand, neglecting necessary maintenance can cause your energy usage to increase and the lifespan of your HVAC system to decrease.
The good news is there are small efforts you can make in between maintenance appointments that can prolong the life of your AC unit. Not sure where to start? Check out 10 simple steps to maintaining your air conditioning system below.
Step 1. Turn Off The Power
Turning the power off while working on your air conditioner will keep you safe while you dismantle and clean all of the moving parts involved. Make sure you turn the exterior shut-off box off first, which will be located by the condenser. Then, turn off the power at the breaker box.
Step 2. Remove Debris
You will want to remove any leaves and debris from inside the unit first. To do so, unscrew the fan cage from the top of the unit and set it aside. Then, remove all debris with a shop vacuum or by hand from inside the unit.
Step 3. Clean The Fins and Fan
Using a garden hose, spray down the fins from the inside out to remove any debris between them. You can use a fin-cleaning spray if the debris is difficult to remove, but never use a pressure washer since the fins are sensitive.
You can spray the fan cage or wipe it down as well and then set it aside.
Step 4. Straighten The Fins
Damaged or bent fins should be straightened to maximize airflow. You can use a butter knife or a fin-straightening tool to do so. Be careful not to damage the tubing within the fins.
Step 5. Clean Around The Unit
You can now replace the fan cage at the top of the unit. Next, you will want to remove any debris around the unit including bushes and plants. There should be a radius of two feet free of anything around the unit to ensure proper airflow. When the condenser is not being used in the winter you can cover the top of it to prevent debris from falling inside, but never cover the sides since moisture can build up and cause corrosion. Never have the unit covered if it is running.
Step 6. Level the Unit
When soil starts to set over time, the condenser unit can become unstable, which will cause the compressor to fail prematurely. Level the condenser using rot-resistant padding to prevent this from happening.
Step 7. Clean the Evaporator Coil
Now that the outside unit is finished you can move to the inside. Go to the evaporator coil by the blower or furnace and open it up. Clean the inside using a soft brush and spray the coil with no-rinse coil cleaner which will foam and drip into the drain pan. After this, you can remove the drain pan and clean it using soap and hot water. Feel free to add some bleach or vinegar to remove the tough debris. You can also pour one part water mixed with one part bleach or vinegar down the drain to prevent algae growth. Drain pan tablets are also available to prolong a clean drain. If your water and bleach/vinegar solution does not drain easily, your drain is clogged and you will have to follow through with the next step. If not, replace the evaporator coil door and reseal it if necessary.
Step 8. Clean a Clogged Evaporator Drain
Over time, mold and algae can build up and clog the evaporator drain. The drain tube usually leads to a basement floor drain, utility sink, or outside. When the drain gets clogged it will prevent your A/C from blowing out cool air to avoid flooding. To fix this you will have to follow the drain line to the end, it is usually a white, grey or black one-inch PVC pipe. You can then use a shop vacuum to clear the drain of anything clogging it.
Step 9. Change The Blower Filter
Along with your air filter needing to be changed out on a monthly basis, your blower filter also has to be changed out throughout the year. Twice a year is recommended, once before summer and once before winter is optimal. The filter enclosure is located by the indoor AC unit where the fresh air return duct enters the unit. Make sure the arrows on the filter that show air-flow direction match the arrows on the unit.
10. Turn On The Power
Now that you have done your part in maintaining your HVAC unit, you can turn the power on and wait for clean, cool air to fill your home once again. While following these steps between routine check-ups to keep your AC running smoothly is a great way to save money on preventive AC maintenance costs, it is still important to have a professional technician come look at your unit if there are any parts malfunctioning. Call or conveniently schedule a service online today at Energy Air.