Giving your air conditioner a checkup every spring is easy to do and will prolong its life, increase its efficiency, and keep you breathing freely. When the first summer heatwave hits, you’ll be glad you took an hour or two to prep it for the season. If you skip the spring cleaning, your air conditioning just might let you down when you need it most. The tips in this article apply to both central air conditioners and wall-mounted air conditioners, as well as heat pumps.
Why it’s important
Dirt and debris collect over time and can clog up the cooling fins. If the blower fan filter is dirty or the coolant level is low, your air conditioner can wear out faster and its efficiency will be significantly reduced. Only an HVAC professional can check coolant level and lubricate components while verifying their working condition and the condition of electrical parts.
Usually, your warranty requires that your air conditioner or heat pump be serviced annually by a certified contractor. Scheduling your annual service call now, in spring, means the pros will have more time for you before they get really busy.
Still, there are some things you can do yourself to prep your air conditioner for the season.
What you can do
You can clean the outdoor unit (called the condenser) and the accessible parts of the indoor unit (called the evaporator). It’s easy, straightforward, and will only take a couple of hours. No special skills or tools required. Just remember to switch off the unit and disconnect the power supply before cleaning your air conditioner. But, first, let’s take a look at the parts of an air conditioner and how they work.
How air conditioners work
Whether you have central or wall-mounted air conditioning, or even a heat pump, each system has a condenser outside your home and an evaporator inside your living space. The outdoor unit, contains a compressor, cooling fins and coils, plus a fan. The fan draws air through the fins, cooling the liquid coolant. The compressor then pumps the cooled liquid refrigerant into the evaporator inside your home. There, the liquid coolant chills the evaporator fins and coils.
Next, warm indoor air is drawn through the evaporator by the blower to be cooled and blown into the rooms of your home through the air conditioning ductwork. The evaporator dehumidifies the air while cooling it, with the resulting condensation draining into a floor drain through a tube.
Step 1: Clean the outdoor unit
Your main goal is to clean the condenser coils of dust, dead leaves, dead grass and other debris that block the flow of air drawn in by the fan. Any blockage reduces your air conditioner’s cooling ability. Remove debris using a soft brush attachment on a shop vacuum cleaner. Then hose off the grille and outer coil.
Step 2: Clean the indoor unit
Pull out the filter and check it for dust buildup. Change it if needed. Check your owner’s manual for the filter type. Or you can take the old one with you to the store to make sure you buy the right size. Vacuum dust from the blower compartment using a soft brush attachment. Because the evaporator is downstream from the blower, the best way to keep it clean is to keep the filter clean. If you can get to it, though, carefully vacuum its fins with the same soft brush attachment to avoid damage.
Step 3: Clean the condensate drain line
Most condensation drain lines are flexible plastic tubes, making them easy to pull off and clean or replace. Before reinstalling the drain tube, clear the drain port of any debris. If you neglect the drain line, algae and mold can grow inside it and clog the drain. This can cause musty odors inside your home or, worse, water damage.
So, you see that it’s as simple as 1-2-3 to get your air conditioning system ready for spring and summer. To keep things running smoothly all season, remember to clean the air filters regularly. That’s every two weeks for a wall mounted system and once a month for a central system. Your indoor air will be cool and clean all season! Even if you recently purchased a new home, it’s still worth tuning up your air conditioning for the season!
By Judith Brown