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In some parts of Canada, we go from shivering in extreme cold to melting in high temperatures as spring slides into summer. You may be craving warm weather now, but trust us, when that sun lets lose its heat, you’ll be turning on the AC in a jiffy.
To prevent your AC from blowing hot air on your cooling dreams, it’s a good idea to follow some common steps to get your air conditioner ready for summer.
Spring is usually the perfect time to start air conditioner maintenance, so follow these tips to air conditioner care to be ready for summer.
In North America, central air conditioning usually uses an indoor air handler, also known as furnace blower, and an outdoor compressor. A third main part, the condenser, is also typically located outside. And this is the part of your air conditioning system you’ll need to focus on cleaning and maintaining most.
Let’s get the easy stuff out of the way first. Replacing the filters is something you should already do at least twice a year, but even better, at the turn of each season. Don’t wait until the dust bunnies start to pop out, just change it. A good way to remember doing this is to coincide it with moving the clocks forward and backward.
Dirty filters recirculate allergens into your home and restrict airflow, reducing air conditioning efficiency. If you’re not sure how to best do this, read the manufacturer’s instructions.
Now for the laborious parts of cleaning your AC unit.
Before we dive into this, major AC repairs are not DIY jobs, so reach out to experts if you think something is wrong with your AC. Trying your hand at serious fixes will also void your furnace warranty.
First things first: turn off the power to the AC before you do anything else.
You will also need to turn off the condenser unit. This can be done via the disconnect box located near the unit, which has a lever, fuses, or a circuit breaker.
Because the AC unit’s condenser is located outside, the coils and fan are prone to catching debris. You can keep them clean in winter by using a reliable cover that prevents anything from getting lodged in it. Obstructed airflow makes the condenser less efficient, so clean the coils properly at the beginning of every cooling season.
The condenser unit is a large fan enclosed in a metal box with sides shaped like grilles. If you keep your condenser unit covered during winter, you might not have to do a lot of cleaning.
If the unit wasn’t cloaked, you’re looking at a detailed cleaning that involves removing leaves, yard debris, and dirt.
Before cleaning the coils, double check the condenser is powered off. Use appropriate tools to undo the grilles and remove the side and top. Lift this part carefully because it will be heavy due to the fan attached to it.
Watch out for those wires connected to the fan, be gentle and careful not to tug at them. Clean the coils and fan using a coil brush or a soft brush mounted on a vacuum.
You can also combine brushing with gently spraying the fan and coils with water. Make sure the brush is soft and the spray isn’t set on blast power. Strong water pressure could bend the fan fins, flood the base of the condenser, or destroy its electrical. Keeping that in mind, avoid spraying water on the electrical components or the fan motor. It’s a good idea to cover these sensitive parts with a plastic bag when you’re cleaning. Remember to dry the coils and fan blades before you turn the unit on. If left wet, the dust on the fan fins will become mud and cause problems in the system.
Dirt, debris, and scraps can get under the condenser, too. Once you’ve cleaned the coils and fan fins, you will need to focus on the base of the condenser.
Check to see if your air conditioning unit has a drain. Now make sure the drain is clear. If there’s moisture around the drain, reach down and clean it with a cloth. If the amount of water seems excessive, call the pros to come take a look.
Tighten any loose mounting bolts and use a few drops of lightweight oil spray or good old WD-40 to oil the motor ports. Lubrication helps parts move smoothly, lessens friction, and increases efficiency, keeping your electricity costs in check.
Once the coils, fan fins, and condenser base are cleared, cleaned, and dried, put it all back together.
It’s good to clean up inside the condenser, but it’s also important to keep the area around it clear. You may need to remove any nearby overgrown vegetation. Cut and remove any weeds or vines that may obstruct airflow through the condenser unit. Make sure you’re not storing any leftover tiles or other construction material near it either. Try not to use your AC condenser as a prop stand for items that you need handy in the backyard. The area around it should be kept free of any rubble and scraps.
If any of this seems like too much to take on, remember you can have a company like us, Advance Heating and Cooling, maintain your air conditioner for you. We also use high-end tech devices to monitor air flow, condenser strength, and dozens of other metrics to make sure your system is running optimally.
Refrigerant tubes or pipes run from the AC’s evaporator on the air handler (inside unit) to the condenser unit. If you notice the refrigerant is too low, it could indicate a leak in the system. You might have to call an HVAC professional to find the leak and fix it before the refrigerant can be topped off.
The coolant lines are usually covered with foamy insulation material, which prevents the system from losing energy.
Check the insulation for frayed or worn off sections. Identify all such spots and then one-by-one replace them with new foam insulation sleeves. You can also wrap the lines in a spiral style with foam insulation tape.
Remember to keep the power off the entire time you’re working on coolant lines.
Since you’ve just cleaned the condenser unit, and likely had to use water to wash it, give it some time to dry out. Once it’s dry, you can move to the indoor stage of AC maintenance: testing.
Turn the power to the condenser back on by turning the thermostat completely to the OFF setting. Then turn the power on at both the disconnect box and at the main panel. At the end, flip the thermostat all the way over to COOL.
Before you do so, walk through the entire house to ensure all ducts are open and cleared of any blockages. It’s also a good idea to have the ducts cleaned before you start the AC unit. Clean air ducts are just as important a part of a healthy AC system as well-maintained AC units. If the ducts are clogged with dust and grime, they can impact the performance of the air conditioning and heating. Clean ducts are also better for the health of those living in the house. You may not have the capacity, tools, and skills to clean the ducts, so call the experts for this task.
Professionals can also do other duct checkups that include identifying airflow leaks or obstructions. HVAC experts will also ensure the ducts or connectors are tightly fastened and aren’t damaged. Any of these conditions can reduce airflow and negatively impact the performance of the AC system. Professionals will also be able to check air blower components.
Once the air begins to flow, give it some time to turn cold.
If everything is working well, the air handler or furnace blower will soon breathe chilled and dehumidified air throughout the house.
The only sound you should hear when you turn on your AC is that of air being forced through the ducts. If you hear any funky, clangs you can’t account for, turn off the air conditioner and call an HVAC technician for a thorough inspection.
Sometimes AC units need more than just cleaning.
If the AC doesn’t kick off, the problem may not necessarily lie with the unit. It could also be an issue with the thermostat. Start it on a low setting initially, then decrease it by a bit every couple of hours to test the full range of temperature.
Smart thermostats are a good way of conserving energy. They allow for better temperature regulation throughout the day. Good temperature regulation allows for the AC to get a break, increasing its efficiency and life.
Regular maintenance cuts down the chances of having to do major repairs. Develop the habit of doing standard checks on your AC system to keep it in peak condition.