As the season shifts into summer, air conditioners will be kicking into gear across the land. Before it gets too hot, now’s the time to give your central air unit some time and attention to make sure it can operate in top condition and keep you and your family in cool comfort without wasting electricity and money.
DIY air conditioner maintenance
Check the insulation on the coolant line between your condenser and compressor. Part of this pipeline lives outside, so the sun, rain, frost and snow can make this protective barrier deteriorate. As you might imagine, when heat can seep in past this barrier and raise the temperature of your coolant, your central air conditioner will have to operate longer. If the existing insulation is breaking away, peel it off, replace it with fresh foam pipe insulation, and seal it with electric tape.
Change the filter. Before it’s time to fire up the air conditioner, it may be time to replace the filter. Swapping a dirty filter will increase airflow and lower your unit’s energy consumption by 5 to 15 percent, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. Once it’s changed, check it monthly for the rest of the season.
Clean the outside. Your central air conditioning unit needs a healthy airflow to do its job. If the cage of the central air unit is covered with leaves, grass clippings and other remnants of nature, it has to work much harder. Remove the big pieces with a coil brush. Then, using mild detergent and a hose, rinse off the grime and debris. As the season progresses, keep an eye on the cage and remove any debris.
Getting a visit from a professional
During an annual maintenance visit, a professional can catch and fix small problems, such as low refrigerant and worn fan belts. Otherwise, these can worsen into bigger, more expensive problems that come along on the hottest, sweatiest days of the year.
These are some of the things technicians commonly look at during the annual maintenance visit, and why these inspections are helpful to the life of your air conditioner:
- Clean and straighten the cooling fins. Dirty cooling fins prevent the unit from removing heat, which will make the machine run for increasingly long periods, costing you in higher energy bills and creating more engine wear. Bent cooling fins can also make your machine less efficient.
- Check the thermostat and controls to make sure the system, as it starts up and shuts down, is operating properly.
- Inspect the motor. Here, the technician can tighten connections and check voltage levels, the fan belt, and the refrigerant level, and lubricate the moving parts. Otherwise, this can lead to more friction (which translates into increased energy usage), or breakage, which can be costly and inconvenient.
- Check the condensate drain. If you have PVC pipes, this can be a magnet for algae, which can lead to plugs and clogs, causing water damage.
Annual air conditioner maintenance is time and money well spent because it will lengthen the life of your machine and make it cool your house efficiently. In the long run, being proactive will keep more money in your pocket.