Few things beat summer heat better than walking into a comfortably chilled air conditioned home. Air conditioning is often taken for granted, but sorely missed when it is not working. The key to keeping cool all summer long is to ensure that air conditioning systems are functioning properly.
Maintaining an AC unit can save money and protect homeowners’ investments. Without regular attention, an AC unit will lose its efficiency, needlessly wasting both energy and money as a result. Poor maintenance also can lead to system failure just when it is needed most.
According to the U.S. Department of Energy, the average lifespan of an air conditioning unit is about 15 to 20 years. Home Advisor says homeowners can pay between $500 and $4,000 for central air conditioning, with the final cost depending on the unit, additional installation items, such as ductwork, and installation charges. With regular maintenance, homeowners can keep their units humming properly and avoid premature replacement costs.
So what can homeowners expect as it pertains to air conditioner maintenance? The following are some oft-needed checks and fixes.
• Keep it clean. Vacuum the fins and coils of the AC unit on the external compressor/condenser fan with a soft-bristled brush, advise the experts at Family Handyman. This may require unscrewing the metal box surrounding the unit to access the fins. Remove any accumulated debris that may be impeding air flow. Afterward, go inside and change the filter that is installed with the evaporator that’s located in a central duct near the furnace. Inspect the filter periodically to see if it is soiled and needs replacement. Timing can vary depending various factors, such as the time of year, the accumulation of dust and whether or not pets live in the home.
• Straighten coil fins. The fins on the condenser are easily bent and that can affect the flow of air through the coils. If you cannot easily straighten them, then consult with an HVAC professional to do so.
• Check the thermostat. Ensure that the thermostat is still working properly. You also may want to upgrade an old thermostat to a programmable or smart thermostat that enables you to remotely set and adjust the temperature.
• Consider an in-line duct booster. HVAC professionals can guide you through the advantages of an in-line duct booster for forced-air cooling. This can increase the flow of cool air into a room that always seems hotter than the rest. Another option is a vent or register booster fan that sits on top or replaces a traditional floor or wall register.
• Deal with condensation. Condensation from air conditioning coils can puddle around the furnace if the condensate drain tube is clogged. Clearing it out will help prevent puddling and the formation of bacteria-laden water in the system.
Periodic maintenance is necessary to ensure uninterrupted service on a home AC unit.