I will forgo telling you these horror stories and cover the nub of the subject of air conditioner maintenance. I’ll describe the basic things you can do yourself and then cover things you should call a professional to do. Real AC maintenance tips that can save you money and keep you comfortable. What can be so bad about that? How did Johnny stop a Trane, you ask? Well, keep reading, and we’ll get to it. Stop yawning, and we’ll get to it okay?
Air Conditioner Maintenance | Maintaining Comfort
Filters - Air Conditioner Maintenance | Maintaining Comfort
Yes, all that stuff you see in the filter? It was once floating around inside the air in your house. That is for another article, though. Oh wait, we already covered that subject, Indoor Air Quality. Along with several other articles on it in our Air Filter Category. Anyhow, here is a list for you of the problems that can happen when you have a clogged air filter:
- The evaporator coil will freeze over from a lack of airflow through the system. That exacerbates the airflow problem even more because now the ice is blocking the proper amount of airflow from flowing through the system.
- So effectively you have no cooling and not even a cool draft from the airflow to keep you cool. This can cause the blower motor or indoor fan motor to overheat. While it may not kill the motor, it does cause issues that can result in the blower failing prematurely.
- Because the evaporator coil is frozen, the refrigerant is not absorbing any heat. That means the refrigerant does not boil into a vapor. It remains a liquid. The liquid makes its way back to the compressor. The compressor is not designed to handle liquid. This has the potential to cause major issues including catastrophic failure of the compressor.
I apologize, this is turning into a horror story already for not changing the filter BEFORE it loads up and that is only one task in basic air conditioner maintenance. Sorry for not sugar coating anything here. I am simply a realist here.
Basic Checklist - Air Conditioner Maintenance
Here is a basic air conditioner checklist for you to follow if you decide to do this yourself. It is not as thorough as a professional HVAC Technician would because you need a license to some of the things they do, but this will get you by. We’ll keep this short and sweet:
As noted above, change the air filter on a frequent basis. I know some people suggest every 30 days, and some filter manufacturers suggest shorter or longer periods, but really, change it before it loads up with junk. Keep a calendar and write it down when you changed it the last time.
Filter Trends and Changing Frequency
After a while, you can see a trend, so you don’t have to check it as frequently. You’ll know from the trend that you need to change it every three weeks or every five weeks. Whatever the load up time is for your house. That will vary from one house to the next. So unless you have Bigfoot come and live with you for a few weeks, then you will know how often to change the filter. You can then set your Smartphone to alert you of the next time you need to change it. Unless Bigfoot is there and then you will have to check it to make sure Bigfoot hairs are not clogging it up sooner.
Condenser Coils (Mucho Important!!)
- The condenser coils outside. Yes, it is a good idea to take a water hose and wash it out from time to time. It is a heat exchanger, and if Bigfoot hairs (or anything else) are clogging it up, it inhibits the heat exchange process. Make sure you turn the power off before using water around the condensing unit. And keep the water running through the coils and keep it away from other things including the fan motor.
Condensing units are designed to run outdoors in all types of weather so you should be okay. However, its always better to minimize the water around electrical components as much as possible. Spray those coils and clean the crud out of them. You can use a mild soap or special coil cleaner. If you use the coil cleaner, wear gloves and don’t overdo it with the cleaner.
Condenser Cleaning Tips and Frequency | Air Conditioner Maintenance
Cleaning It once a season is okay, but the same rule applies to this as the air filters mentioned above. If it loads up with junk wash it out.
- It helps, when mowing the lawn, to turn the air conditioner off. When you mow the grass, you throw a lot of dust, debris, and grass up in the air. The condenser can pick this up and suck it right into the coils. Same thing with a weedeater.
- Speaking of weedeaters, be careful not to damage the wires around the condenser with the weedeater.
- Of course, you can cover the condenser in the winter with the special condenser covers they sell, but before you do make sure you kill the power to the condenser before doing so. The covers will keep leaves and other things out of the unit in the off-season. That is only for air conditioners and not heat pumps.
- When washing the condenser with the water hose, don’t use so much pressure, you bend the fins on the coils. They do sell condenser fin brushes to straighten the fins out if you do or someone else damaged them.
- Make sure you don’t leave things that inhibit airflow around the condenser. Any airflow blockage of the unit affects the performance and efficiency of the system.
Air Conditioner Maintenance Service from a Professional
A professional HVAC Technician can do this work, and many HVAC companies offer specials for air conditioner maintenance, especially in the Spring. It’s a smart idea to take advantage of these specials to make sure you are ready for the hotter weather that comes in the summer.
Bigfoot, your temporary house guest (hopefully) will appreciate being more comfortable in the cool air conditioner. Here is a basic service list of what a professional will do for preventive air conditioner maintenance. They may not do it in the order of the list, but they should do these basics:
- Check the thermostat - normally this is the first thing I do when doing air conditioner maintenance.
- Check and change the air filter. If you just changed it and it is clean, then they should leave an air filter for you as a part of the service. BTW, when calling for air conditioner maintenance service, it would be a good idea to give them the filter size so they will know what size to bring. Sometimes this information does not get to the technician.
- Check air flow across the evaporator coil and from the supply to the return.
- Check the temperature from the supply to the return. That will give them a basic differential temperature called a Delta T, and they can match it up to a chart to tell if the air conditioner is performing normally for the conditions.
- Clean the condenser coils and check the electrical system for abnormal amp readings, low readings, and loose connections.
- Check the refrigerant charge. If it is low then you likely have an AC refrigerant leak. The technician will likely top it off for you but recommend a refrigerant leak check and repair be performed.
- Oil motors as necessary as some motors do not require lubrication. These motors have sealed bearings.
- Make sure the air conditioner is going through the proper sequence of operation.
- Clean the evaporator coil - some companies will charge extra for this if the evaporator coil needs it. If it’s dirty it means either you have not been keeping a filter in the system or you have leaking ductwork on the return duct.
- Check the ductwork for leaks and make sure all the supply vents are open.
Air Conditioner Maintenance Agreements
Some HVAC Service companies offer maintenance agreements. These maintenance agreements are designed to offer you scheduled maintenance in the Fall and the Spring. This takes care of periodic maintenance for both the air conditioner and heating system whatever type of heating system you have. A lot of companies will also give you a discount on parts and head of the line service in the event of a breakdown.
As with any legal document such as warranties always read it and understand it before signing. Typically, you pay upfront for this service and when the time comes for maintenance the company will call you to set up an appointment for this service.
Conclusion - Air Conditioner Maintenance | Maintaining Comfort
Remember, air conditioner maintenance can save you in the long run by increasing the efficiency of the system. Cleaning the coils allows them to work as designed whereas dirty coils inhibit the system and make it work harder. This causes you to use more electricity and using more electricity costs you more on the utility bill every month. It will also reduce (not eliminate) breakdowns.
Bigfoot votes for air conditioner maintenance because he wants to be comfortable when he visits you this summer. What happened to Johnny you might ask? Well, he learned his lesson about neglecting his air conditioner and now he has a professional service take care of it for him.
Air Conditioner Maintenance | Maintaining Comfort