The importance of keeping up with the maintenance of your AC unit cannot be overstated – especially in desert states where it can stay hot almost all year. Yearly maintenance is the best way to predict or prevent problems, and potentially avoid a broken AC during the hottest days of the year. The best time to make sure your indoor AC is in perfect working order is today.
Create Space Around the Unit
Rake leaves and debris from around the unit, and trim any grass or vegetation so that there is a clear two-foot radius around it. This allows the unit to circulate air properly. Don’t forget to remove any covers that have been placed on the unit over the winter.
When trimming grass and vegetation, take care to prevent as many clippings from going on or around the unit as possible.
Clean the Outdoor Unit
It is surprising what can become trapped in an outdoor unit. Leaves, dirt, and even pollen can contribute to build-up and debris. A vacuum, compressed air, or a garden hose are useful tools to help clean out hard-to-reach areas. The best way to remove debris is by spraying it from the inside of the unit outward. This prevents debris from getting further embedded into the unit.
To clean the unit properly, you may need to remove the fan cage from the top. This could require the use of a screwdriver or wrench. Be sure to turn off the power to the unit before attempting to remove any pieces.
Shop vacuums work well for cleaning. However, if one is not available, placing pantyhose or cheesecloth over the wand of a household vacuum will suck debris out of the unit and prevent it from entering the vacuum.
Level the Unit
Over time, the AC unit can shift or move from settling of the ground. Although it may seem trivial, a unit that isn’t level can shorten the life of the compressor. If the unit is not level, consider using rot-resistant shims to help level it.
Some experts say that if the unit also includes a heat pump system, it is okay for the unit to be slightly sloped away from the house. This allows defrosting run-off during the winter months to run away from the foundation.
Straighten the Fins
The fins of the unit are thin pieces of metal located underneath the grill portion of the outdoor unit. They help move air to or from the unit, and when they are damaged, it inhibits air flow and decreases the efficiency of its overall functioning.
Bent fins can be straightened with a fin-straightening tool. If one isn’t available, a butter knife works just as well. There are tiny tubes within the fins, so be careful not to damage these any further when straightening the fins.
Check the Condenser
Although condensers are built to last, they can still experience some wear and tear from the elements. Check that is doesn’t have signs of damage and that the air can flow freely.
Clean the Evaporator Coil
The evaporator coil is located in the part of your unit that is indoors. You will likely have to remove some screws from the door. Using a soft brush, dust off the coil and spray it with no-rinse coil cleaner. The spray will foam then drip into the drain pan below.
Check the Evaporator Drain
The evaporator drain collects humidity and drains it from the unit. Like the evaporator coil, it is indoors. It is possible for this to become clogged, so it is a good idea to check that the drain is clear before the unit will be used regularly. Some plumbing professionals suggest pouring a mixture of water and bleach down the drain to help clear it of algae and mold that can build up over time.
A good way to test the drain is to pour a mixture of water and bleach down the drain and watch the mixture. If it drains slowly, you may want to consider cleaning the drain. A clogged drain can result in a flooded floor as the unit continues to function, or the unit will shut off to prevent flooding.
Typically, the part of the drain that is clogged is a one-inch PVC pipe running from the drain pan to the floor or another area. Use the wand end of a wet/dry vacuum, plugging the gap with a rag or duct tape, and vacuum out the debris from the drain. (Consider removing the paper filter to keep it from getting wet).
Change the Filter
Changing the filter regularly helps the AC to run as efficiently as possible. Always replace the filter with one that has the same airflow rating, and be sure the airflow direction is going the same way.
Be sure to check which direction the arrows are pointing on the current air filter before taking it out. Then make sure the new air filter’s arrows are pointing in the same direction. Change the filter regularly to ensure your unit is functioning at its best.
Reprogram Your Thermostat
It is always a good day to reprogram your thermostat when the weather changes. This helps save on the cost of energy and can extend the life of your AC unit as it will only run when necessary. If you have a manual thermostat, consider switching to a programmable one if at all possible.
Consider Using the Fan
During heat waves, your AC can get a lot of use. Consider using the fan setting during the cooler mornings or opening a window instead. This gives your system a break, and could add another year or so to its lifespan. Opting for opening a window saves both money and the environment.