Regular maintenance can extend the life of your air conditioner and help you save money on bills. If you have a maintenance agreement with an HVAC company in Raleigh, you don’t have to worry about DIY air conditioner maintenance. But if you want to know how to maintain your air conditioning unit on your own, here’s a quick guide to the things you should and shouldn’t do.
- Before you start, you’ll need to turn off the power on the exterior shut-off box. You may want to turn off the power from the breaker, as well.
- Locate the fan cage, which may be screwed into the top of your unit. Remove the cage and vacuum inside using a wet/dry vacuum.
- Use the brush attachment on your vacuum to clean the fins. (These are part of the metal grill or grate on the outside of the HVAC unit.) Be careful as the fins are very fragile.
- As you vacuum, examine the fins. If condenser fins are bent, you can straighten them with a butter knife. Use caution so you don’t damage the tubing inside. If the fins are severely bent or there are many bent fins, don’t try to fix them all yourself. A professional should straighten them.
- Find the small, dripping condensate drain line – it typically empties into your air conditioner drain pan or onto the ground. Push a stiff, thin wire brush through the opening to clear out any slime that may have accumulated.
- Examine the area around the unit. Cut back plants and vegetation to keep pollen and plant materials from dirtying your condenser fins.
If this AC maintenance checklist seems too complex, there’s one easy, important thing you can do to make your HVAC system more efficient. Change the air filter. Filters should be replaced whenever they are dirty, or at least every other month. The Department of Energy estimates that replacing your HVAC filter with a clean one can lower energy consumption by up to 15%!
When choosing a new air conditioner filter, bring the old filter with you so you can choose the right size and type. Avoid HEPA filters and purifying filters; they don’t let as much air pass through, and the reduced airflow can cause the coils to freeze.
General air conditioner maintenance doesn’t require more than a couple of hours, and you’ll only need a few basic tools: a wet/dry vacuum, a thin wire brush, and possibly a screwdriver and/or butter knife. Your air conditioner unit should undergo a deeper spring cleaning at least once a year. While you can do many basic maintenance tasks yourself, there are some things that only a professional technician can do during a maintenance appointment, such as:
- Check the refrigerant levels.
- Clean the air ducts to ensure proper airflow.
- Clear a clogged air duct.
- Use a leak detector to find and repair any leaks.
- Measure airflow through your evaporator coils to ensure there are no blockages.
- Check the accuracy of your thermostat.
- Clean and lubricate your blower.
You don’t need to have your coolant levels checked or your airflow measured every month, but you should occasionally call in the experts to make sure your HVAC unit is working as well as it could be. Catching leaks and clogs early can save you huge headaches – and bills – in the future.