Category: Blog

Air Conditioning Maintenance: The Ultimate Guide (2021 Update)

Air Conditioning Maintenance_ The Ultimate Guide

You rely on your air conditioning system to keep your home cool and comfortable, but your A/C system requires regular maintenance to function efficiently for that to happen.

Just like any other home appliance, it’s normal for your air conditioning unit to experience some wear and tear from regular use and develop mechanical problems at some point during its lifetime.

Keeping your system up and running smoothly requires proper attention to its maintenance and service needs. System maintenance can also save you money and headaches from unexpected breakdowns that can leave you sweaty and fuming!

If you are looking to keep your home comfortable (and who isn’t?), then keeping your A/C running is a must.

Let’s take a look at what you can do and when you need to call in the pros when it comes to air conditioner maintenance…

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Chapter 1

How Your Air Conditioner Works

If you recently moved from a home where you mostly used fans, window-mounted air conditioners or are thinking of installing a central air unit, you may not be too familiar with the central A/C system. Don’t worry… we can help.

Central air conditioning units operate in the same way that your refrigerator does, but on a larger scale. Essentially, your air conditioner quickly converts gas to liquid and back again using chemicals that move the heat in the air from inside your home to outside.

For a more in-depth look at how your A/C unit works, check out these resources.

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Chapter 2

Why Does My A/C Need Maintenance?

Just as your car requires regular maintenance to run smoothly and properly, your A/C also requires regular care. Proactively taking care of your air conditioner not only extends the life of your unit but can also save you a substantial amount of money on repair and replacement costs. Something as simple as changing the air filter in your unit can prolong its efficiency and improve the air quality in your home.

What other steps can you take to keep your unit running like new? Check out these resources to find out:

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Chapter 3

How to Shut Off Your A/C Power

When repairing or installing your A/C unit, it is essential to turn off the power to your unit. Turning off your air conditioner’s power not only protects your equipment and the unit itself but also protects you from getting an electrical shock. Always check to see if you’ve successfully turned off your system by attempting to turn heating and cooling on from your existing thermostat.

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Chapter 4

How to Clean Your Outdoor A/C Condenser Unit

Cleaning your condenser unit outside yearly will increase the efficiency of your air conditioner and protect your investment. This is an easy DIY cleaning project, but you can also hire a professional to clean your unit for you if you don’t have time. Cleaning the condenser is especially important if dandelions grow around your unit or an abundance of leaves or grass clippings.

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Chapter 5

How to Level Your Outdoor A/C Condenser Unit

Moving your air conditioning unit can be a daunting task, but if the unit is not leveled correctly, it may fail to function properly and could cause refrigerant leaks. Be sure to use a level to check your unit at least once a year, as the earth under your unit is constantly changing and settling.

Below are a few resources on how to level your unit:

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Chapter 6

How to Clean Your Evaporator Coil

The Evaporator coils in your A/C unit are essential in cooling your home. Not only do they help cool things off, but they also remove the moisture in the air that causes that sticky humidity. Since these coils are typically moist from the condensation, they can easily collect dust and dirt and become dirty. Dirty coils prevent your central A/C unit from functioning efficiently, but they are also easy to clean.

Here are some helpful resources:

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Chapter 7

What if Your Condensate Drain Line is Clogged?

Remember that evaporator coil we talked about? To prevent all the moisture in that coil from living in your A/C unit, the condensate drain line removes that moisture from the unit. Since this drain line is almost always moist, it’s a breeding ground for mold and mildew, which can cause the drain line to get clogged. This is one of the most common reasons a pro is called in to fix an air conditioner, which means cash out of your pocket.

Luckily, this can be prevented with some simple maintenance once or twice a year:

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Chapter 8

Changing Your Blower Filter

Just as your dressers and countertops collect dust, so does the air filter in your air conditioner. Imagine if you never dusted inside your home; it would get pretty stuffy and hard to breathe after a while, right? Well, that’s what’s happening inside your air conditioner if you don’t replace the filters regularly. You’d be surprised how much gunk and dust gets collected in a relatively short time. Fortunately, cleaning your air filter is an easy task and helps your unit run efficiently while also improving your air quality.

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Chapter 9

Why Use Programmable Thermostats to Adjust Home Temperature

When installed correctly and configured properly, a programmable thermostat will help maintain a comfortable home and adjust the home temperature automatically throughout the day. It can help save money and manage to cool your home without hovering over the older dial models.

Here are some helpful resources:

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Chapter 10

When You Should Call a Pro

As we mentioned, keeping your air conditioning system running smoothly and efficiently requires proper, consistent maintenance and service needs. While most of the problems we discussed can be easily fixed at home, some issues require the attention of a certified technician. They have the knowledge and experience to diagnose the problem quickly and get your system up and running safely.

Here are some tips on contacting a pro…

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Chapter 11

Air Conditioner Maintenance Tips You Can Do Yourself (Checklist)

Is your air conditioner ready for summer? There is nothing worse than feeling hot and sticky.

Use these quick tips to have your A/C running smooth. And it will help prolong the life of your air conditioner and help it run more efficiently.

AC Maintenance Tips Checklist

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Outdoor unit…

1. Keep it Clean

Check and clean the unit of any debris. Over time dirt, grass, leaves, and more can surround your unit, reducing airflow. Clean the area before turning the A/C on for the summer and trim any shrubs to keep the air flowing.

2. Level the Air Conditioner Unit

Make sure your air conditioner pad is in a stable position. Compressors on concrete pads can settle over time. This places strain on the coolant lines.

Level the condenser for better performance.

3. Fix Your Fins

Fins on an A/C unit are fragile. When the fins are bent, heat can get trapped within the unit. This can lead to performance issues and controlling temperatures in your home. Bent fins can be fixed in a few simple steps.

HVAC gives you the steps to carefully fix bent fins. “What do I do if my outside air conditioner has bent fins?

4. Unclog the condensate drain tube

The condensate drain removes the condensation produced by your air conditioner’s evaporator coils.

If the line is not cleaned, mold can grow inside, clogging the drain.

5. Clean the air conditioner coils

If your coils are blocked, it will decrease airflow and the efficiency of your unit.

5. Check the insulation

Check the insulation around the line to make sure everything still looks good.

Indoor unit…

6. Check the air filter

The most critical maintenance task that will improve the efficiency of your air conditioner is to replace or clean the air filters routinely.

You should be able to see the light through the filter.

7. Clean the drain line

Make sure the drain line is not clogged.

Part of your summer ritual should be to have your system checked by a trained technician. Once a year, have a Certified HVAC technician tune-up and inspect your A/C unit.

The Homeowner’s Guide to HVAC Maintenance

Homeownership comes with a lot of responsibility. In addition to making sure that you pay your mortgage on time every month, you also have to oversee the functions of your home and make sure that everything is working efficiently. Things like HVAC maintenance might not be particularly glamorous, but they’re part and parcel of keeping your home running right.

HVAC, which stands for “heating, ventilation, and air conditioning,” is the system responsible for helping you maintain a comfortable temperature in your home. It is also partially responsible for maintaining optimal air quality and energy efficiency.

Most of the HVAC maintenance that you undertake as a homeowner is proactive and preventative, meaning you’re doing work that will help future problems from occurring. There is a lot that can go wrong with your HVAC, including leaks, corrosion, and issues with distributing hot or cold air. And everything from clogged filters to dirty coils can lead to a problem, so it’s important that you stay on top of your maintenance tasks year after year.

The best way to go about maintaining an HVAC system is to have a set plan that you follow every year. In this guide to HVAC maintenance, we’ll go over the basics that you need to know in order to put a plan into place, including what goes into proper maintenance, how often you should do it, and how much it costs.

Common HVAC problems

As mentioned above, there are a lot of problems that can occur with your HVAC system—some of the more common than others. And it helps to know what these problems are. Here are three HVAC problems to keep top of mind as you work out your maintenance schedule and options.

  1. Leaks
    All HVAC connector and drain lines have the ability to develop leaks. These leaks force your system to run harder than it should, and could ultimately lead to you having to replace one or more components. Keep an eye out for leaks from refrigerant lines (more on those under monthly HVAC maintenance tasks), as well as leaks from the AC condensate line and heat exchanger.
  2. Corrosion
    Whenever you combine wiring with moisture you have the potential for corrosion. This corrosion, which can happen on any wires or terminals related to your HVAC system, will generally cause your heating or cooling system to turn on and off on its own. Like leaks, it will also force your system to work harder, and may lead to a complete break over time.
  3. Dirt and debris
    All components of your HVAC system—from filters to the electric panel, and everything in between—need to be free of debris. In addition to causing your system to work inefficiently, things like dirty air filters will pump dust and allergens into your home, reducing the air quality and flow and potentially clogging the system.

Types of HVAC maintenance tasks

You can’t put together an HVAC to-do list if you don’t know what you have to do in the first place. Barring any unforeseen issues, these are the standard HVAC maintenance tasks that you’ll want to undergo each year. We’ve broken them into specific timelines so that you can easily differentiate between what needs to get done right now and what needs to get done just once a year.

Following this list will help you keep your HVAC in strong working order, and will also ensure that, if there is a problem, you find out about it sooner rather than later.

Right now

Make sure that these tasks are always ticked off to mitigate the potential for avoidable issues with your HVAC system:

  • Check that the area around the visible indoor and outdoor components of your HVAC system (think AC units and heating units) are free of debris, including boxes, grass, leaves, and furniture.
  • Ensure that there are two feet of cleared space around all HVAC system components.
  • If you haven’t already, buy high-efficiency air filters so that you have them ready to go. If you don’t have a high-efficiency filter in place already, swap one in.

Once a month

  • Inspect your air conditioner refrigerant lines for leaks. These two lines, which are typically copper, connect your outdoor air conditioner to your system’s indoor evaporator coil. Here’s where—and what—to look for.

Once a season

  • Replace the air filter every 90 days.
  • Turn off water to the furnace humidifier in the summer.
  • Replace the humidifier filter and turn the water back on in the fall.

Once a year

  • Go through your home and replace the batteries in all of your carbon monoxide detectors.
  • Lubricate your HVAC motor and replace the fan belt if it’s not running efficiently.
  • Clean your AC condensation drain line with bleach. Directions on how to do that here.
  • Take a look at your outdoor AC unit and ensure that, in addition to being free of debris, the unit is standing on level ground.

If you follow this list and make sure to do the right tasks at the right times, your HVAC system should run well for a long time. The life expectancy of an HVAC system is about 10 to 25 years—and with preventative maintenance, you can expect yours to last closer to 25 than 10.

What about hiring an HVAC technician to come in?

Even though you can handle most of the standard HVAC maintenance tasks on your own, your heating and cooling system is rather complex, and some issues might not be apparent to you. In the same vein, there are more nuanced checks that need to be done occasionally, such as checking for the proper functioning of electric components and ductwork.

It’s a good idea to occasionally bring in a pro for HVAC maintenance. If your system is new you can probably get away with having someone come just once a year or every other year. For older systems, plan to have professional maintenance performed twice a year—in the spring and then again in the fall.

HVAC maintenance and repair costs

Your HVAC system isn’t going to cost you too much if you stay on top of preventative maintenance. Costs to budget for include high-efficiency air filters, which are about $20 apiece (you’ll need four per year), and a bottle of bleach for cleaning drain lines—about $5.

If you hire a technician to come in and perform maintenance, expect to spend about $70 to $100 per visit. Ask about any discounts that might be available. Some HVAC maintenance companies also offer annual contracts, where you pay a set fee to have someone come out once a year.