We’re nearing the end of July and entering into the end of the dog days of summer. With temperatures across the country reaching record highs, it’s likely that your central air conditioning has been running almost nonstop. That means that your machine is due for some maintenance. A bout of mid-season air conditioning maintenance will help keep your unit in peak condition for the long hot days still to come. There are three primary steps in your mid-season air conditioning maintenance. These steps are a general inspection, taking care of your filters, and dealing with your condenser and coils. You might be wondering exactly what you should do at each step. Don’t worry, we here at Crucial are here to walk you through that process. Before you begin any maintenance, it’s important that you shut off the power to the unit at the breaker box.
A central air conditioner has two main parts. The part on the inside of the house that sucks the heat out of the air is the evaporator that’s usually next to the furnace. On the outside, you have the compressor and condenser that blow the heat out of the lines and into the surrounding air. This job will take about two to three hours to do correctly, so plan accordingly. Wear all appropriate safety equipment and remove all of your jewelry before beginning this maintenance.
Step One: General Inspection
This step is all about inspecting the exterior of your AC and making sure that there isn’t any visible damage. You’re also making sure that the area around your air conditioner is clear. The Department of Energy recommends that your outdoor condenser has at least two feet of clearance on all sides. This ensures that the unit receives adequate airflow. That airflow is important because it is what takes away the heat from the AC. If there is any sort of buildup or debris blocking the condensers, your air conditioner is going to be running inefficiently and may be prone to freezing up.
When you do your physical inspection of the condenser fins outside and evaporator coils inside, you want to look for signs of ice. If ice is forming, this is also going to make your air conditioner run poorly. Ice is a great thermal insulator and your air conditioner has to work extra hard to get rid of heat from your home. Ice is also a sign that there’s something significantly wrong with your air conditioner, from a clogged air coil to low levels of refrigerant. You should call a licensed and certified repair professional if you ever see any ice on your air conditioner.
Step Two: Take Care of Your Filters
Okay, so ideally, you should be checking on your ventilation system’s filters every month. When you inspect air filters, you’re looking for two primary things. The first is the overall state of the filter. Check the cardboard frame. Is it bent, tearing, or have any other physical damage? Check the filter, looking for tears or rips. Anything that wasn’t there the last time you inspected the filter should be examined closely. Use the dusting brush attachment on your vacuum to clean the surface of the filter to remove excess dirt.
You should change your filters on a regular basis as well. As a rule of thumb, the frequency of your filter changes corresponds to their thickness. A one-inch filter frame should be changed every 1 to 3 months. Correspondingly, a five-inch thick filter may only need to be fully replaced once per year with normal use. Of course, if you live in an area with a lot of dust or allergens, or you have multiple pets, your filters will need replacing more often. When you do a full replacement of your filters, make sure to install them facing the correct direction (follow the arrows printed on the frame).
Step Three: Condenser and Coil Maintenance
After you’ve cleared a space around your condenser, you want to get out the dusting brush attachment for your vacuum once again. Sweep the fins of the condenser clean of cobwebs, dust, pollen, grass clippings, or any other debris. Use a flexible crevice tool to get underneath the unit. Don’t use a blower to try to clear out from underneath the air conditioner, you could spray the coils with debris and damage them. Use the crevice tool to clean between the coils inside as well. The more stuff you remove from there, the more efficient your air conditioner will operate.
On the inside portion of your air conditioner is a condensation tube. As the air is cooled by the evaporator, it is also dehumidified. The moisture that comes out of the air condenses on the coil and drains through the tube. Make sure that there is no water building up in the base of your unit and that the drain is clear.
That’s it for the mid-season air conditioner maintenance. Keep in mind that you should check your filters and condenser monthly, especially if your area goes through a heavy pollen day or two. Keeping the condenser fins clear can go a long way toward saving you money. When your air conditioner doesn’t have to work as hard to keep you cool, it runs less. When it comes time to change your filters, remember that Crucial can save you money there as well. We have knowledgeable customer service agents who are more than willing to help you find a filter that suits your needs. Let us help you keep cool as summer comes to a close.