Picture it: a blistering summer day in July, the sun bearing down on every crack and window, when all of a sudden, your air conditioner breaks. It’s only a matter of time before things get really sweaty and uncomfortable.
With summer just around the corner, now is the perfect time to brush up on your knowledge of how your air conditioning works. Although some care for your unit may require a professional, there are many things you can do to ensure that your air conditioner isn’t working harder than it should. Read on to learn how to properly maintain your air conditioning unit — so it will last for years to come.
Learn The Basics
An air conditioner works similarly to a refrigerator, as they transfer heat from a home’s interior to the warm outside environment. There are a few types of air conditioners available in the United States, with the most common being a central air conditioner. There is a duct system throughout the home that keeps the entire temperature of the house consistent. This system also uses air filters to improve indoor air quality and helps remove dust, pollen, and airborne particles. Other air conditioning systems include the ductless air conditioner, in which each room has its own unit, as well as the heat pump unit, which combines heating and air conditioning into one unit. If you aren’t sure which one your home has, consult your owner’s manual.
A Little Troubleshooting is a Good Place to Start
We often don’t really think too much about our air conditioning not working, until it doesn’t. Before you call the professionals, there are a few simple things you can investigate on your own.
Your thermostat is the first thing you should check if something isn’t right. It may sound trivial, but check to make sure your thermostat is in AC mode and that the temperature is set correctly. If your thermostat is located directly in the sun or in your kitchen, where it can get warmer when you’re cooking, your thermostat may register an incorrect indoor temperature.
Pro tip: before moving on to the next troubleshooting steps, turn your unit off. Safety first!
The second culprit to investigate is clogged AC filters. A clogged filter can result in blocked airflow through your system. When filters get clogged or dirty, your air conditioner has to work much harder, which may increase the operating cost and lead to further damage, shortening the life of your unit. Your filter should ideally be changed every two months or so, and once before heating and cooling season. If you live in a particularly dusty climate or have pets that shed, you may want to change it more frequently.
Pro tip: replacing a dirty or clogged filter with a clean filter can lower your AC unit’s energy consumption by 5-10%.
Outdoor AC units need adequate room for airflow. You’ll want to ensure there are about 2-3 feet of clearance around air conditioner. Check for plants and trees crowding the unit, which can cause your compressor to work harder than it should. Additionally, you should try to minimize any dust and dirt that can build up on the unit’s “fins.” These fins are fragile and can be easily bent, ultimately blocking airflow. Visit your local hardware store to purchase a comb that can restore them to like-new condition.
Pro tip: You can also use an old dinner knife to clean the fins. For an all-over clean, don’t be afraid to use the garden hose to ensure all the built-up debris is gone.
…But Call a Professional if You’re in Over Your Head
If the above troubleshooting techniques still leave you hot and frustrated, it’s time to call in the professionals. A well trained service technician will locate and fix the issues to get your unit back up and running. They’ll check for things such as leaks, measure airflow, and verify the accuracy of your thermostat.
Ensure that you’re getting annual maintenance on your air conditioning unit by a professional who can correctly calibrate your system. Some necessary maintenance and tuning can only be carried out by people who possess the right skills, tools, and experience.
Do you know how a relatively inexpensive oil change on your vehicle can potentially eliminate a much more costly problem in the future? Think of your AC upkeep in much the same way. One final pro tip: Set a reminder for the same time each year to ensure you don’t forget to schedule your AC maintenance appointment!
We know the heat may get unbearable in Texas, but having a properly functioning air conditioning unit can feel like a cool oasis in the middle of the desert.
Check out our blog post on finding the magic number for your thermostat during the summer.