For your air conditioner to function efficiently and live its entire life, you need to maintain its main parts – filter, coils, coil fins and condensate drains – properly. If you neglect this necessary and routine maintenance, the repairs would rise and so would your bills.
Main AC Parts That Need Maintenance
• Filters – Cleaning and replacing air conditioner filters regularly ensures a good life for the AC unit and its efficient working.
• Importance of Maintenance - When normal airflow is blocked by dirty and clogged filters, the consumption of energy by the AC is increased by as much as 5 – 15%. In fact, the coils could get clogged and insulated with dirt because of dirty filters that carry the dust to the evaporator.
• Location of Filters - Central AC filters are located along the length of the return duct. Commonly, locations of the filters could be in the AC itself, furnaces, ceilings or walls.
• Frequency of Replacement - There are reusable filters in certain ACs while other need replacement. These are available in the market with varying degrees of efficiencies and types. During the season when the AC is most used, it is important to replace the filters every couple of months. If there are pets in the house that shed a lot, replacement might have to be a lot more frequent.
• Coils – The condenser and evaporator coils collect a lot of dirt over their life.
• Evaporator Coil - If the filter is cleaned regularly, the coils would not get soiled so fast. However, no amount of maintenance can stop these coils from getting dirty. The result of this dirt would be a reduction in airflow. Because of the added insulation, the coil would not be able to absorb heat efficiently. Thus, the evaporator coil should be cleaned and checked by a professional annually.
• Condenser Coil - For the condenser coils located outdoors, the dust from the environment or nearby foliage can cause them to become dirty. These coils are easily visible and a quick look will reveal if they need cleaning or not. Debris and dirt near the condenser should be minimized as much as possible. The biggest sources of this dirt are the lawn mower, falling leaves and dryer vents. The foliage should be trimmed back by 2 feet, the area around the coils should be regularly cleaned, and any debris should be removed for maintaining proper airflow in the area of the condenser.
• Coil Fins – These fins are found on condenser coils and evaporator, and are made of aluminum. They get bent pretty easily and the airflow is, thus, blocked through the coil. In order to maintain the coil fins properly, a tool called ‘fin comb’ can be bought from wholesalers of air conditioners and used for combing the fins back to their original as-good-as-new condition.
• Condensate Drains – The drain channels often get clogged and this is the reason why the air conditioning unit fails to reduce humidity efficiently. The excessive moisture in the house could lead to discoloration of carpets and walls. To maintain these drains, a stiff wire can be used and passed through the channels on a regular basis.
Importance of Window Seals
The main area where window seals should be checked is between the window frame and the air conditioning unit as this is the point where the metal case of the unit comes in contact with the seal. The moisture often damages the seal and causes cool air to escape from the window. This inspection should be done at the beginning of the cooling season.
Since the unit would not be used during winter, it should either be stored inside the house or a cover should be installed on top of it. This would protect the unit for gathering additional dust, rusting or getting damaged because of the harsh winter weather.
Professional technicians check if the refrigerant amount is correct and also look for refrigerant leaks. If any refrigerant needs to be taken out of the system, they evacuate it using legal methods and do not release it into the environment. In central units, they check for any damage to the seal duct and check the airflow in the evaporator coil. Once every year, professional technicians should be hired for all these things and more.