AC Maintenance Essentials

Your AC repair system needs regular maintenance to maintain its efficiency and prevent problems. Some tasks are simple enough to do yourself, such as cleaning your drip pan and flushing your drain line.

Make sure your unit isn’t obstructed by bushes, plants, or other debris, and trim any foliage that may restrict airflow. Also, clean the aluminum fins on your evaporator and condenser coils using a “fin comb,” available from air conditioning wholesalers.

Check the Thermostat

A properly functioning thermostat is a crucial component of your AC system. It allows your air conditioner to reach its desired temperature and helps maintain the energy efficiency of the unit.

A simple test of your thermostat can be done with an indoor thermometer and a little know-how. Turn on your HVAC system and set the thermostat to a lower or higher temperature than the thermometer’s reading. Wait about an hour and read the thermometer again. The difference between the two should be very close if the thermostat is working properly.

For more advanced testing, use a multimeter to examine the wiring of the thermostat. Make sure the breaker is off and that the wires are not tripped or damaged. Once you have determined that the wiring is working, it’s possible to “jumper” the thermostat wires to bypass the thermostat altogether. This is only recommended for those who are familiar with working on electrical components and can do so safely.

Clean the Evaporator Coil

Your air conditioner evaporator coil needs to be clean in order for it to properly perform its two key functions of dehumidifying and cooling. A dirty evaporator coil can reduce the dehumidification capacity of your AC by up to 50%.

Likewise, a dirty coil can prevent your air conditioner from efficiently cooling by blocking the flow of cool air through the coils. This happens when the coils become covered with dust, dirt and other debris.

Cleaning the coils is a relatively simple process that can be done in place, meaning you don’t have to remove your air handler from the wall or attic. However, before beginning to clean the coils, make sure the power to your system is turned off by flipping the breaker in your breaker box or finding and turning off the switch on the unit.

After removing the access panel, start by visually inspecting the coils. If you notice large clumps of dirt or leaves, brush them off using a coil brush (available at most big box hardware stores and AC shops). Using short brush strokes, gently brush the fins of the coils.

Clean the Condenser

Keeping the coils clean is important for proper operation of the AC. Dirty coils put unnecessary strain on other parts of the system. This leads to a shorter lifespan for your system and can be very costly.

To clean the condenser, start by turning off the power to the unit. Find the drain line and remove the cap on the exit point (usually a PVC cap). Clean out any dirt, debris, or algae that has built up there.

Next, find the screws or bolts holding the top cover and remove it. Set the screws aside in a container. You will need to access the fan cage and coils to clean them. Be careful when doing this as the condenser is quite heavy. Keep the area around it free of trash, tall grass, and plants for at least a two-foot radius. If they are too close, the airflow could be restricted and cause damage to the unit.

Replace the Filter

Air filters are a critical component of your HVAC system and one of the most important parts to be replaced on a regular basis. Clogged filters lead to overworking the air conditioner as it tries to move through the clogged debris and can result in premature wear and damage to your unit.

The first step in replacing your filter is to turn off the power to your AC. This is important for both your safety and to ensure that no dust or debris normally trapped by the filter is sucked into other components of the system while you are working on it.

Once the system is turned off, locate the filter and remove it. Be sure to note the direction of airflow (usually indicated by an arrow) on the filter so that when you install it, the arrow is facing away from the return vent and toward the blower mechanism. You should also change the filter on your furnace/air handler if you have one of those systems in your home.