As spring and summer approach, many of us aim to minimize our air conditioning usage, both to reduce environmental impact and save on costs. However, on those scorching hot days and nights, running the AC becomes a necessity. To ensure your central air conditioning system functions efficiently and safely during the summer, follow these nine straightforward tips shared by DIY Network.
Power Down Your Unit
Before you start any maintenance work on your air conditioning system, the first step is to power it down. Turn off the actual unit by using the exterior switch located in the unit’s power box. Additionally, switch off the breaker box connected to the unit.
Clear Interior Debris
Now that the unit is off, remove the fan cage with a screwdriver. Use your hands or a handheld vacuum to eliminate any leaves and debris that may have found their way inside the unit.
Clean the Fins
Take off the unit’s outer covers and use a shop vacuum to get rid of exterior dirt and grime. Then, use a garden hose to spray the fins from the inside out. Avoid using a pressure washer, as it can damage the fins.
Straighten Bent Fins
If you notice any bent fins on the unit, gently straighten them using a butter knife or a fin-straightening tool. Bent fins can impede airflow efficiency, so this step is crucial.
Remove Additional Debris
Reattach the unit’s cage and ensure you remove any leaves, dry grass, and yard debris from the base of the unit. To prevent leaves from falling inside the unit when you stop using your air conditioner in the fall, cover the top with a piece of plywood.
Ensure Proper Leveling
Check if your unit is on level ground; an unlevel unit can cause the compressor to stop working. Use a level to verify, and if necessary, add rot-resistant shims to balance the unit.
Clean the Evaporator Coil
Follow these steps to clean the evaporator coil:
Locate the evaporator coil door on the inside blower/furnace unit.
Remove any foil duct tape and screws or bolts if necessary.
Use a soft brush to dust off the coil, then spray it with a commercially available no-rinse coil cleaner.
Clean the drain pan with soap, hot water, and a bit of bleach.
Pour a mixture of 50% bleach and 50% water down the drain to inhibit future algae growth.
Replace the evaporator coil door and reseal it with foil duct tape if needed.
Clear a Clogged Evaporator Drain
Over time, algae and mold can accumulate and clog the evaporator drain, potentially damaging the unit. Here’s how to clean it:
Locate the drain line leaving the evaporator coil enclosure (usually a one-inch PVC pipe).
Use a wet/dry vacuum to clear the drain; remove the vacuum’s paper filter to prevent damage.
Attach the vacuum hose to the end of the drain line and vacuum for 2-3 minutes.
Change the Filter
Don’t forget to regularly check and change the filter in your HVAC system. Follow these steps:
Find the filter enclosure where the large fresh air return duct enters the indoor furnace/AC unit.
Use a screwdriver if necessary to open the enclosure door.
Replace the old filter with a new one, ensuring the air-flow direction arrows match the unit.
Close and latch the door.
With these maintenance tasks completed, you’ll be ready to enjoy a comfortably cool home all summer. However, remember that certain HVAC tasks should be left to professionals if they are beyond your expertise. It’s a worthwhile investment to call in a professional for complex issues.
images sources : Sherri James/DIY Network – Comfort Experts Inc. – American Home Shield – Remodeling Expense / Family Handyman – Home Depot – The Family Handyman – Next Level HVAC – YouTube/Lennox Learning Solutions – A+ Air Conditioning & Refrigeration – Canadian Residential Inspection Services