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AC Maintenance: Keep Your Air Conditioner Running Efficiently

CEO Khai Intela
By Ryan Mayes Basics of Preventative HVAC Maintenance Most car owners understand the importance of regular maintenance to extend the life of their vehicle. The same principle applies to air conditioners. By understanding how your...

By Ryan Mayes

A couple shaking hands with dealer next to ac after air conditioner maintenance

Basics of Preventative HVAC Maintenance

Most car owners understand the importance of regular maintenance to extend the life of their vehicle. The same principle applies to air conditioners. By understanding how your air conditioning unit works, you can appreciate the value of keeping it well-maintained.

Your central air conditioner consists of an indoor unit and an outdoor unit connected by copper tubing and electrical wiring. This system not only cools but also heats your home. To ensure optimal comfort, efficiency, and cost-effectiveness, it's crucial to keep all parts of the system in good operating condition.

Here's a breakdown of the two main units:

Outdoor Unit

Also known as the condenser unit, the outdoor unit houses the condensing coil, compressor, fan, motor, and electronic controls.

Indoor Unit

The indoor unit can be a furnace or a fan coil. It contains the evaporator coil, blower fan and motor, and an air filter.

During operation, a refrigerant circulates between the indoor and outdoor units, absorbing and releasing heat energy. However, dust, dirt, moisture, and microbial growth can accumulate on the internal components over time. This build-up can lead to corrosion, decreased efficiency, and a shorter lifespan for your air conditioner.

Regular AC maintenance and tune-ups can help minimize these issues. HVAC technicians can perform inspections to check for long-term problems and prevent potential failures or breakdowns during the cooling season. Additionally, annual maintenance may be necessary to maintain your warranty's validity.

Sample Diagram of Air Conditioner Figure 1: Sample Diagram of Air Conditioner

Clean the Air Conditioner

Keeping the outdoor unit clean is a simple yet effective way to save money and increase the lifespan of your AC system. Airborne dust, dirt, and debris can get stuck in the coil fins, restricting airflow and affecting performance. Here are four preventative maintenance tasks to keep the outdoor unit clean:

  1. Removing debris/foliage: Clear the area around the unit from shrubs or flowers that may impede airflow. Physically remove any leaves or debris near or clinging to the unit.

  2. Vacuum the coil fins: Before vacuuming the coil, turn off the system to ensure safety. Use a soft bristle brush attachment to gently remove dirt from the coil.

  3. Cleaning the coil fins: After turning off the system, clean the coil fins with heavy-duty coil-cleaning chemicals and a garden hose. Ensure that the water pressure is not too high to avoid damaging the fins.

  4. Cleaning the evaporator coil: Cleaning the indoor evaporator coil is best left to a licensed HVAC professional due to its difficult accessibility.

Replace the Filter

Cleaning or replacing your AC system's air filter is a simple maintenance task that you can do yourself. The filter, located in or near the indoor unit, helps improve indoor air quality and keeps your system running efficiently. The frequency of filter changes depends on various factors, such as the filter type and quality, environmental conditions, allergies, and system usage.

Check and inspect your filter every 2-3 months, cleaning or replacing it as necessary. Follow your manufacturer's recommendations for filter maintenance. Here's a general guide to clean or replace your AC system filter:

  1. Turn off system power: Before performing any maintenance, turn off the power at the thermostat, breaker box, or power shutoff switch near the indoor unit.

  2. Locate the filter: The filter may be positioned on the sides, top, or bottom of the blower cabinet. It can be found horizontally or vertically, depending on the model. For older models, the filter may be inside the blower cabinet.

  3. Inspect and clean/replace: Once the power is off, remove and inspect the filter for dust build-up or debris. Clean the filter with a vacuum attachment or replace it with a new one. Ensure the filter is positioned correctly with the airflow arrows pointing in the right direction.

  4. Restore power: Replace the cabinet cover and restore power to the system.

Know When to Call a Professional For Air Conditioner Maintenance

While regular maintenance can prolong your air conditioning system's life expectancy, there are times when it's best to call a certified HVAC technician. Signs that indicate you need professional assistance include inadequate cooling, constant running, frequent on/off cycling, and freezing of refrigerant tubing or the outdoor coil.

If you experience any of these issues, a trained technician can evaluate your cooling system during a maintenance visit. If you don't have a trusted contractor, you can use the Carrier HVAC dealer locator to find a reputable dealer in your area.

For more information on air conditioner repair and maintenance, visit our Air Conditioner Repair and Air Conditioner Maintenance pages.