Most everyone with an Air Conditioning system wants to avoid costly repairs and keep their utility bills lower. A properly maintained system will help ensure both, with fewer breakdowns and a longer lifespan. To ensure manufacture warranty status annual maintenance by licensed contractors is required.
Introducing you to your Air Conditioner
The main reason failures in equipment occur is due to a lack of maintenance. As a homeowner, you may be reluctant to do anything regarding your A/C. If this is the case, you should leave technical assessments and repairs to properly trained/licensed professionals. Never hesitate to call for referrals to contractors with factory-trained technicians call one of the Behler-Young branches.
If you do handle some of the maintenance, always observe safety precautions. And, before you perform any work on your outdoor unit, shut down the power at your electrical box.
And now, for the tips!
1. Examine the Thermostat
The simplest task for air conditioner maintenance is to check your thermostat. Making sure it works properly and keeps your home at the right temperature. For digital thermostats or controls, be sure it has fresh batteries. Those power all of the automatic switching and any displays it may have. If you have a mechanical thermostat, consider upgrading to a smart, programmable model like the EB-STATE5BR-01 Ecobee Smart Thermostat with voice control powered Bryant. A smart thermostat allows you to set the temperature higher when no one is home. It can cool the house down in a reasonable timeframe before people arrive home for the evening. You’ll save energy and money by not having your air conditioner running when no one is there.
Want to monitor or make changes to your thermostat from anywhere? Consider WiFi capability options for remote access to your home’s comfort settings. Most of the apps are free and easy to use.
2. Clean or Replace Air Filters
Replacing your air conditioner’s filter (or cleaning it if you have a reusable filter) is one of the most important air conditioner maintenance chores. When or how often to address your filter depends on the type of filtration you have. Some examples are Electronic Air Cleaners or Purifiers, Media Air Cleaners (usually 3” – 6” wide), and Standard Pleated Fiberglass Filters (widths from 1” – 2”).
For filters that require replacement choosing a new filter may take some thought and consideration. Look for one that suits your needs. If you have indoor air quality challenges, consider upgrading to a filtration system with a better MERV rating.
MERV stands for minimum efficiency rating value. It’s a nationally recognized measurement system that’s used to rate every air filter. The rating is based on the filter’s ability to catch particles of a specific size. The MERV rating range is 1-20, with 1 being the lowest and 20 being the highest.
3. Check the Indoor Air Handling Unit
While you are taking care of your filter, be sure to check the appliance that moves the air in the home. Whether you have a conventional forced air furnace or some other form of air handler, making sure it is maintained is crucial to your system’s performance, longevity and efficiency.
Start by switching the power to the unit off by either the circuit breaker or service switch. Next, inspect the motor and wheel for any dirt or debris that may have bypassed your filtration and clean as needed. Make sure the motor bearings spin smooth and the wheel spins freely. If the wheel is unbalanced, this will cause damage to the motor.
If a motor were to fail, the condensation that forms and drains from the evaporator coil will freeze to it. This could damage the coil and/or cause a host of other issues.
Speaking of condensation, ensuring the drain is clear, pitched correctly and free-flowing is important. Clogged drains or pumps can cause damage to equipment and the items around it.
4. Clean the Outside Unit
Most residential air conditioning systems are commonly referred to as “split systems.” Meaning there is part of the system specifically designed to withstand normal weather and outdoor conditions. However, this does expose it to animals and other elements nature has to offer. Things like leaves and twigs, excess foliage, cottonwood and dandelion seeds, insects/rodents, or even man’s best friend have the potential to cause issues in operation. Lucky for us, there are some simple solutions to prevent problems.
Start by shutting off power to the unit. You can do that at the service disconnect on your outdoor unit or your home’s breaker panel.
Before cleaning of any kind can be done, you’ll need room to move freely around the outdoor unit. Trim any shrubs or other plants around your air conditioner. This will also prevent them from impeding airflow to and from the unit.
Then, starting at the top, use a garden hose to gently wash out any debris that has collected in or on the unit. When rinsing the coil area, point down at about a 45-degree angle, and work your way to the bottom. Take care not to bend or damage the delicate fins on the coil. NEVER use a power washer during this procedure. You will cause permanent damage to the unit.
While not entirely necessary, a coat of wax on the painted metal surfaces could help prevent rust damage.
5. Check Wiring and Components
Since we’ve already washed and waxed it, might as well take a look under the hood. There are usually two different voltages that power your condensing unit. One is a low 24v signal (usually from your air handling unit’s transformer.) The other is a 208/230/1 supplied from either a separate meter or a breaker in your house panel. These connect inside to components in the unit’s electrical compartment. With the condenser unit’s power turned off, remove its access panel and look for signs of overheating on wires or contacts. This includes melted insulation on wires and blackened or burned-looking areas on any of the surfaces inside. Also, check for critters and insects that may have taken up residence in the electrical panel. If you own an electrical test meter, you can check the unit’s capacitors and motors.
6. Check the Condensing Unit’s Fan
Your air conditioner won’t cool your home very well if the condenser unit’s fan blades are in poor shape. They could cause damage to the motor bearings, wiring, or piping components inside the unit. That’s why it’s important to know their condition.
While we already have the power off to your air conditioner unit. Check the fan mounted on top of the outside condenser unit for any cracks or chips visible in one or more of the blades. This fan needs to be balanced to prevent noise and vibration. Also, if you have an older air conditioner unit, you may need to oil the fan motor bearings regularly.
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If you’re not comfortable performing any of this type of maintenance, just ask your local Bryant HVAC professional what is included in your bi-annual checkup. Most contractors will have service maintenance agreements that make it easy to properly maintain and repair your systems.