Winter has turned the corner and we’re heading for spring and summer. Before you pull out the tank tops and flip flops, your air conditioner will need a check up. Temperatures and humidity will rise, and air conditioners will begin working overtime. You know, the usual.
At some point, the heat will overload the air conditioner. However, if homeowners keep up with proper ac maintenance, then their units will run efficiently all year long. It isn’t expensive, nor does it take much time. But first, homeowners need to know how heat affects their units. Knowing that, the unit maintenance won’t turn into air conditioning repair down the road.
How Does Heat Affect An Air Conditioner?
Without getting too scientific, the condenser unit outside draws the warm air from the inside of the house and vents it to the outside. The outside air moves across coils that cool the air and gets blown indoors. When the outside air temperature is very hot, the strain on the a/c is enormous.
The warmer air is blown into the home, which makes the unit work harder to draw the now hotter air out of the house. Air conditioners are designed to keep the air temperature at 75 degrees indoors, even if the heat outside tops out at 115 or 120. This is why homeowners are recommended to keep their temp set at 75 up to 78 degrees. It keeps the unit from working harder to cool the house.
Improve Your AC’s Efficiency All Year Long
Change The Filters
Two filters keep the dirt, germs, and other grime from contaminating your indoor air quality. You’ll need to replace the filter in the air intake inside the house. This is a big square cut out of a wall in one of the main rooms and covered with a grille. Filters are made that should be changed monthly, but even if they cost a little more, the pleated filters requiring changing every three months capture more grime for better indoor air quality.
The second filter is found in the heat exchanger. You’ll find this in a closet somewhere on the main floor of the house. It’s a tall aluminum thing, the bottom of which has an opening for a filter right above a drip tray. The same type of pleated filters for the indoors can be used in the heat exchanger; they’ll just be a bigger size. This filter is the first defense in the battle for good indoor air quality.
When the filters are dirty and gray, they block cool air from entering the house. The coil will get the dirt on it that should have been caught by the filter, causing the coil to absorb less heat. This has the effect of less cool air entering the house.
Clean The Coils
The coils need to be cleaned at least once per year. When the heat is exchanged from outside to inside, it passes over the coil. This is where refrigerant cools the air and then passes it inside. When the coils get dirty, it’s like trying to make a car engine work when its air filter is so clogged nothing can get through.
There are two coils you’ll need to clean: the condenser coil in the outdoor unit and the evaporator coil in the air exchanger indoors. On the air exchanger, remember to turn off the power to the unit. You’ll turn off the a/c at the thermostat as well as at the exchanger. If there is no light switch-type switch on the exchanger, then you’ll have to flip the breaker at the breaker box to off.
Remove the metal casing around the coil, which should be the top compartment beneath the duct leading into the house. The coil will either be an “N” or an “A” shape. Clean and then put it all back together
The condenser coil is in the outside unit. Turn off the power to the unit, both at the thermostat and the breaker box. Some units’ coils are beneath several layers of things at the bottom of the unit. Other units’ coils are the wall that surrounds the inside of the unit.
With these you’ll need a tool to clean what is called a fin. Such a tool looks like a comb and isn’t very expensive. When the aluminum fins bend, they block air flow, which is why you need to both clean them and keep them in the proper position.
For the outside unit, a special cleaning fluid is made that you mix with water and put in a sprayer. Some coil cleaners come in a spray bottle, consisting of no-rinse foam cleaner.
Be sure to clean leaves and other debris from the inside of the unit and hose down the outside to keep it clean. If getting into the innards of your HVAC unit makes you feel uneasy, then by all means call in the professionals. They do this every day and will make short work of your ac maintenance.
Check The Ducts
Ducts are like a tree’s branches taking the cool or warm air throughout your house. Ideally, air travels through them with no blockages. Ideally, nothing in the ducts will affect the air quality in the house. However, dirt and debris get into the ducts, ducts spring leaks, and sometimes they fail altogether. This affects the efficiency of the a/c.
Have a professional clean the ducts at least once per year. Their machines will know if there’s a leak or if a duct has come loose. They will get all the dirt and debris out of the ducts. Air flow will be restored and efficiency established. They will also help you with air conditioning repair regarding the ducts. The good news is that your power bill will get a whole lot better.
Don’t Block The Vents
If your sofa, a chair, a bookcase, or other item of furniture is placed over a vent, then the air conditioner has to work overtime to get air into the room through other vents, if there are any. This makes the HVAC less efficient.
That’s if the vents are on the floor. We understand the frustration of trying to keep the baby, her legs, and her toys out of floor vents. So you place a chair she can’t move over the vent. You don’t recognize that you’re costing yourself more money than the frustration of the baby and her toys merit.
Sometimes vents are located on the lower portion of a wall. Keeping the furnishings, bookcases, and other things at least six inches from the vent means the a/c won’t be working too hard to cool or heat the room.
Other builders place their a/c vents higher on the wall. People cover these with floor to ceiling entertainment centers or draperies. They don’t realize that they’re making their HVAC unit work harder, which drives up their power bill. The solution is to place any furnishings at least six inches away from the vent. Keep the curtains well to one side of the vent.
In this crazy, busy world, homeowners work, take care of family business, and try to keep up with house maintenance. Every homeowner wants his house to sparkle. Every system should be working well and air conditioning maintenance is within that system, so feel free to call on the professionals for help in keeping your house running flawlessly.