How to Maintain Your Air Conditioning System

how to do air conditioner maintenance

Your air conditioning system is a key part of your home as it helps you regulate the temperature of your home to keep you comfortable and relaxed regardless of the weather outside.

However, a lot of homeowners see their air conditioning systems as a “set it and forget it” home appliance. As such, if the house is cool, most people don’t see any reason to check on the air conditioner or perform any sort of maintenance tasks.

This is the wrong way to go about it. Sure, air-conditioning maintenance isn’t something that needs to be done daily, but it should be done regularly to maintain its peak performance and keep your home’s cool air supply as clean as possible.

From an industry standard point of view, you should have professional annual maintenance on your AC system. On top of that, you should also perform your own routine checks too.

Luckily, there are several maintenance steps you can take that don’t require any advanced knowledge about how air conditioners work, and they typically don’t take long to complete.

Let’s look at the different maintenance tasks you should be performing regularly on your home’s air conditioning system.

1: Filter Cleaning or Replacement

This is the easiest maintenance step that you can perform, and it has a dramatic impact on the air quality within your home.

Every air conditioner, whether it’s a simple window unit or a full-blown HVAC system, uses an air filter to filter out dander, pollen, dust, and other contaminants from the outside air being pulled into the home via the air conditioner.

When that filter is neglected, it slowly becomes caked in those contaminants and gets clogged.

When this happens, the air conditioner stops performing as well since it can’t facilitate proper airflow, and those contaminants begin to push through the filter and enter your home’s air supply; ultimately entering your lungs and causing everything from allergy flareups to bigger breathing issues.

There are three main types of air filters used by air conditioners, and the method for changing each one is slightly different.

Window AC Units:

Window units are the easiest to work with. You will typically find the air filter slipped into the front of the unit, and you can slide it out at will without any tools. However, you don’t replace these filters. You just clean them and slide them back in.

To clean your window AC unit’s filter, remove the filter by hand and gently scrape off any debris that you can. Then, with warm, soapy water, wash the filter and allow it to dry. When it’s dry, slide it back into the unit.

You will likely have to do this almost monthly due to the small size of window units and how easily they attract debris, but it’s a simple process.

HVAC Filters:

These filters are typically located in a wall in your property with a grate over them, and they filter your entire HVAC system. Annual replacement is recommended, and cleaning these filters isn’t an option. However, they are easy to replace.

First, locate the wall-mounted grate protecting your air filter and turn off your HVAC system. Open the grate by unscrewing and removing it from your wall. Some modern units are more easily accessible.

Then, gently slide out the filter, and then check its label for its dimensions. Write those dimensions down, and buy a replacement that matches them exactly.

Once you have a replacement, simply slide it into place, and replace the protective grate.

On-Unit Filters:

These are less common, but they are found in some modern units. The replacement process is the same as the previously mentioned HVAC filters, except they’re located on the AC itself.

To change it, turn off and unplug the power to your AC unit, open the filter compartment, purchase a replacement, and simply put the new one in before restarting the unit.

2: Clean the Coils

The coils are key parts of your AC unit, and they need to be kept clean. There are many benefits to doing this which can lead to greater efficiency of your unit and lower running costs.

However, we did find an article which suggests that cleaning your coils may not lead to increased performance. But in the study, they did not list how many ACs were tested, so we believe if they increased their sample size, their results would change.

Plus, if you ask any industry professional, they will tell you that maintenance of the coils is essential.

Now, when it comes to cleaning them, their outdoor placement makes that difficult to maintain. Below we have included some tips to help you achieve this.

Window Units:

The coils on window units are usually located on the rear of the unit protruding from your window. If you only use your window AC unit for one season, it’s a good idea to clean these coils before removing them for the rest of the year.

Doing so is easy. Once the unit is out of the window, you can remove the rear casing by unscrewing the 10 or so screws that are easily noticeable. It slides right off on most units.

Then, remove large debris with gloved hands, and give the coils a gentle spray with your hose until all signs of debris are gone. Pop the casing back on, and it’ll be ready for its next use. Doing this with the casing on and the unit installed in a window is difficult because water tends to sit in the casing and can’t be drained.

General Split System Units:

Your AC’s outdoor component, usually located in your back yard or the side of your home, houses its coils. Fortunately, you don’t need to remove anything to clean it.

Use a coil brush from your local hardware store to remove all noticeable debris, and then apply cleaner. Warm water and dish soap will suffice, but there are commercial sprays available in most stores. Finally, gently spray the coils with a hose, and allow the unit to dry.

3: Fin Straightening

Finally, straightening the fins of your AC unit is key to maintaining its performance and removing trapped pieces of debris. These fragile fins are constantly exposed to pressure and abuse, and they become bent.

These are rarely exposed on window units, and unlike the rear of such units, it can be dangerous to remove the parts protecting the fins. Luckily, these are well-protected and usually aren’t an issue.

However, traditional units are different. On the outside portion of your AC unit, you’ll see the thin, blue fins. If these are bent, they reduce airflow, trap debris, and lower performance.

You can safely solve this problem with a “fin comb”. A fin comb is an adjustable tool that you can find at most hardware stores. You simply adjust it to fit the fins on your AC unit, and then gently slide it between the fins. This can straighten out minor bends and remove trapped debris.

Hire a Professional HVAC Specialist

These are small maintenance steps you can take to ensure your air conditioner stays in peak condition, but there are more complex processes that need to be handled at least annually.

If you notice major damage to your fins or these simple maintenance tasks aren’t working, contact a professional HVAC specialist to perform a thorough maintenance. Regular schedules maintenance can prevent major issues that need costly repairs.

About Amanda

I love to buy a lot of products for the home, and dissect them out. I split them into duds and winners, and share the findings here on my site. As a reader of my site, I'm aiming for your next purchase to be an informed and inspired one.

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