Summer is on its way – is your air conditioner ready? Take these steps to prepare your air conditioning for the coming heat!
Air conditioning also accounts for about 12% of household energy costs in the summer. You can make sure your unit lasts a long time and works more efficiently (saving you money) by taking some easy maintenance steps each year. Even if you don’t have a central A/C unit, many of these steps will keep your window or portable unit in good working order as well.
This is probably the easiest form of air conditioning maintenance, but many people don’t do it often enough. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, filters should be replaced every month or two during the hottest months, and at least every three months, to keep you’re A/C running its best. Filters are readily available through local dealers and retailers, and can be ordered online. Just have your unit specs in hand to get the right product.
During the winter, your outside A/C unit has been accumulating debris, dirt and other remnants of the Maine winter. It’s very important to clean a clear area all around it. Any loose leaves and debris left can clog up the unit and cause your air conditioning to have to struggle to work.
Once your outside unit is clean and the surrounding area is clear, inspect the pad that your unit sits on. Use a level to make sure the concrete slab is level. If it’s not level your unit will have to work harder to keep your house cool. If the slab isn’t level, coax it up with a pry bar and add gravel underneath in small amounts until you get a level reading.
Even if you have a cover over your unit, give it a good annual cleaning to make sure there isn’t any dirt or buildup on it. Always disconnect the power to your unit and clean it thoroughly. Commercial air conditioning cleaner is available from most hardware stores.
Leaky ducts make your air conditioning work much harder and increase your energy costs. When just 20% of the conditioned air passing through ducts is leaking it causes your system to work up to 50% harder! Inspect your ductwork annually, looking for any disconnected joints, separated pieces, or any holes. If you find leaks, seal them with special duct repair tape.
Your unit has a pipe that carries water condensation away from your air conditioner. This pipe or tube can get clogged, causing it to backup. Avoid a mess in your house, and an expensive repair bill. Locate where the pipe drains out and make sure it’s draining properly.
Making sure the fins on the outside unit are clean and straight will help your A/C run a lot better. To clean the fins, use a soft brush such as a toothbrush or other gentle bristled brush. Take your time and gently run the brush across each fin individually, being careful not to bend the thin metal. If you do find that your metal fins have become damaged, there are a variety of tools available for purchase that you can use to straighten them out.
If you don’t already have a programmable thermostat, install one for significant energy savings. They can manage both your heat in winter and your air conditioning temperatures in summer, and let you set thresholds so you don’t use your A/C when you don’t really need it. Most of these thermostats are pretty easy to install yourself and require only a couple of tools and a little time to get working.
Although not directly part of your air conditioning system, a drafty home contributes significantly to energy costs. Just like you don’t want cold air coming into your home during the winter, you don’t want your valuable cool air to escape during the summer. Seal up air leaks, keep windows and vents closed, and add insulation where needed.
Air conditioners that go through regular maintenance last 40% longer. An HVAC professional can accomplish things that you can’t as a homeowner. We check all connections and electrical components for safety, lubricate moving parts, clean and clear the condensate drain line, and check refrigerant levels.