Air conditioner maintenance 101

The Old House Web

Note: The following informationis used with permission of ServiceMagic,which provides free contractor recommendations from its database of 40,000 homeimprovement contractors & real estate agents.

air conditionerHeating and air conditioning companies often offer maintenance servicing for both air conditioning units and furnaces. And while these annual checkups won't guarantee perfect performance throughout the season, they can detect small problems before they become big, expensive problems.

Homeowners can also do some things to maintain their air conditioning units. One obvious thing is to run your air conditioner for a few minutes in late spring or early summer, before you need it. If you wait until the first hot day to discover it isn't working, you'll find yourself on a waiting list, sweltering for days before an air conditioning specialist can come to fix it.

First, check before turning on your unit is to make sure the condensing unit located outside is not covered up. The unit needs to draw air into the system in order to have something to cool and circulate inside, but the process is hindered if it cannot pull in enough outside air. It's amazing how many homeowners call for repair because their air conditioner isn't cooling, only to find they forgot they had temporarily stacked lawn furniture, bags of leaves and lawn clippings, around their unit over the winter.

Some people intentionally cover their condenser to protect it from the elements during the winter, although these units require no protection since they are designed for outdoor installation.

Change the filters regularly. Dirty filters restrict air flow, reduce efficiency and worse case, can cause the evaporator to ice up. Disposable fiberglass filters should be replaced. Electrostatic or electronic filters need to be washed regularly.

Be sure all access panels are secure, with all the screws in place. Clean obvious obstructions such as newspaper and leaves from around the exterior of the unit.

Be sure the thermostat is set in the cooling mode. Just setting the dial below room temperature will not activate the air conditioning if it is set in the heat mode.

A thoroughly cleaned air conditioning unit will operate at top efficiency. However, homeowners are strongly discouraged from using a hose and water to try to clean it themselves because of the very serious risk of electrical shock and possible shorting of electrical components.

-- Thomas Fishler of Thomas Fishler's Heat & Air Conditioning & Duct Cleaning in Carmichael, California.

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