With the heat of summer now bearing down on most parts of the country, it’s time to break out the air conditioner and put it through its paces. This is the best time to get out into the open air, shed your clothes and hopefully enjoy a respite from the heat and humidity at some lake, beach or poolside cabana. But not everyone has the ability to lay around in bathing suits all summer. Most folks have to battle the heat from one air conditioned building to another, sweating through their dress clothes during a long work day. The last thing you want is to come home and deal with that brutal heat. But if you don’t take care of your air conditioner, it won’t take care of you. Here are five regular maintenance tips for your air conditioner.
Probably the most important tip on the list is to regularly change out the air conditioner’s filter. Whether you’re dealing with a window box or a central air unit, every one of them runs the generated air through a filter. It’s a good idea to change these out at least once every three months. If you live in a busy urban center or near an active construction site you might want to change the filter even more frequently, to insure you don’t deal with any air quality issues in the home. And don’t skimp on the replacement filters. A low end filter will just have to be replaced more frequently, and will force your unit to burn more energy to create the same cooling effects.
The vents and ductwork in your home should also be regularly cleaned. You should be able to handle this as part of your regular chores, just making sure you dust the vents and grilles several times a year. But at the beginning of the summer you should open up these vents and get in there with the long extension on your vacuum. If you allow dust, dirt and debris to collect in there you’ll get less cold air, and probably see your energy bill skyrocket as well.
Although this isn’t truly maintenance for your air conditioning unit, make sure that the input and outpoint points aren’t being blocked. The condensing unit is how the air conditioner pulls air into the house for cooling. If it is in any way blocked, the unit will perform poorly. In the worst case scenario you might even burn out the engine. Inside your home, make sure the vents in the front of the unit have clear exposure through each room. Partially blocking the unit will cut down on your air flow and create pockets of heat that you certainly won’t appreciate.
Next, check the level of freon in the unit. Generally speaking the freon isn’t consumed during the cooling process. That means it should last for the life of the unit in a perfect world. Of course, the world is far from perfect. Units degrade, break down and leak. And leaking freon is dangerous on several levels. If you notice the air conditioner doesn’t seem to provide air that’s as cold as it once was, bring an HVAC technician in to make sure there aren’t any problems.
Finally, look over the rest of the mechanical elements of the unit. This becomes even more crucial as an air conditioner gets older. The coils could rust or tear, or the electrical controls could wear out. This is another reason you might want to bring in a professional if you’re uncomfortable or don’t know what you should be looking for. Take this opportunity to ask about Energy Star hardware. You’ll save money and the environment, which is the best one-two combo you could achieve.