Air Conditioner Maintenance – The Ultimate Homeowners Guide 2020
HVAC systems have evolved over the years and it is now a critical component of any home or office. A good HVAC system can eliminate unfavorable conditions in your area and give you and your family a clean, comfortable space to live.
An HVAC system has several components that work in tandem and like most equipment, it requires periodic maintenance as there are several things that can go wrong with it. And if you don’t act in time, it can lead to bigger and more expensive problems.
This article hopes to inform you about what you can get done and when you should call the experts when it comes to air conditioner maintenance.
Preventative maintenance for HVAC systems
HVAC preventative maintenance is the act of providing proper care at regular intervals to minimize the probability of bigger problems in the long run for your system.
What people need to understand is that a regular maintenance is as important for their HVAC system as it is for their vehicle. Just like a $50 oil change can save a $5000 engine, regular inspections can help keep your HVAC systems working like new.
Regular maintenance can help you save a substantial sum of money, especially when it comes to HVAC systems because they have a lot more runtime than your average building system. A properly maintained HVAC system can last well over a decade without any need to replace major components.
Prepping an HVAC Maintenance Plan
There are a few things that you need to focus on when it comes to your HVAC setup:
- Optimal maintenance periods of different components of the HVAC system
- How advanced is the HVAC system
- The average run time of the system in a day
Phase 1 – Optimal Maintenance Periods
This should be your baseline when it comes to identifying a proper preventive plan for your HVAC system. Your first step should be to look through manuals provided by the manufacturer and make a note of maintenance periods of all the units. Read through the operating manuals of your chillers, boilers, air handlers, motors, and everything else that is a part of your HVAC system. If you don’t have the manuals, your best bet is to call the manufacturer’s office in your area to get more info.
These manuals provide the framework for your maintenance plans. This is important because manufacturer maintenance periods are fixed after considerable testing and analysis making it a good jump off point for your HVAC and A/C maintenance plans.
Phase 2 – HVAC Complexity Levels
While it might not be possible for everyone to gauge how complex their systems are, a licensed HVAC company can give you the exact picture. They are trained to be able to service a wide variety of brand and models.
Phase 3 – Average Running Time
Another important aspect to take into account is how long the HVAC system runs on a typical day. This might differ depending on where it is installed. For example, HVAC systems at a workplace can have significantly higher runtime when compared to the ones at home. The run time can help you determine how your maintenance cycle changes.
HVAC Maintenance – DIY (Tasks You Can Get Done Yourself)
When it comes to keeping the HVAC system maintained and running well, people who are keen to get it done themselves can read here about how they can get the most out of their HVAC and AC systems without needlessly calling over the experts.
Here are some HVAC maintenance tips that you can use.
Cleaning the external unit (Condenser and Compressor)
The condenser is one of the most critical parts of the air conditioner system, and you need to keep an eye on it for faults and mishaps. The condenser is typically found outside, but depending on the type it can also be located in the garage or attic. It usually has copper tubes, which are sometimes covered by a foam layer, running from it to your house. It works by the process of heat transfer, cooling the air blown inside and drawing warm air out from inside the house. You need to run a regular air conditioning service schedule to keep it in top condition.
Step 1 – Power Off The Unit/Mains
You need to make sure that power is not running through the unit when you are going to clean it. You can get this done either by removing the breaker/block or by moving the switch to the off position. If you think that is hard to do, you can also turn off power to the air conditioner condenser at the main electrical panel.
Step 2 – Clear debris and areas around the unit
The condenser fins are where most of the debris will get stuck, and you need to carefully clean this away. Ideally, you could use a rough paint brush to remove the debris that is easy to dislodge. After this, you could clean the finer debris with your vacuum cleaner and the brush attachment. You also need to keep the area surrounding the condenser free from plant growth or other objects at least a 2 ft radius around the unit.
Step 3 – Clean And Straighten the Air Conditioner Fins
Sometimes fins accumulate a lot of gunk and dirt which are not easily removed with a brush. Instead, try using an old dinner knife to effectively scrape any stuck on debris between the fins, and to reshape any fins that are bent.
Step 4 – Cleaning the Condenser Fan
This is also an area where a lot of dust and debris can accumulate over time and it needs to be cleaned at regular intervals. There are chances for leaves also to get stuck here. The easiest way to get it cleaned is by wiping it down with a damp cloth and then letting it dry in the sun.
Step 5 – Cleaning Fins Inside Out
The easiest method to clean the fins is by spraying water with a garden hose or even better, equipped with a hose nozzle. This removes a lot of dirt that wouldn’t have been dislodged with earlier methods. You need to take care that you don’t get water on the fan motor. If your fan motor doesn’t come with sealed bearings, then you can check your fans lubrication as well. A few drops of electric motor oil (don’t use other oils) should do nicely.
Cleaning the internal unit (Evaporator and Blower)
The evaporator unit installed indoors is what heats or cools the air inside your house. It works with the air conditioner or the heat pump to keep the internal temperature comfortable. Evaporator coils get dirty over time which affects the rate at which it cools or heats the house. They need to be cleaned regularly so there are no drops in efficiency.
Step 1 – Clean the Evaporator Coil
The evaporator coil door is usually found inside the blower/furnace unit and a lot of dust and debris get accumulated. You can use a soft brush to get dust out of the way to start with and then spray it with a no-rinse coil cleaner – this liquid will help get rid of deposits and other gunk off the coil and improve its efficiency. You can also use mild detergents and water to get rid of the dirt between the coils.
Step 2 – Clean the Evaporator Drain
Sometimes the evaporator drain gets clogged due to the buildup of algae and mold, and it needs to be unplugged. A clogged drain can cause flooding which damages the floor or if equipped with a drain float, causes the unit to cease functioning until it is drained of water. Clogging can also cause a bad odor to emanate from the unit. The drain pipe is usually an inch-wide PVC pipe which either drains inside (sink or utility drain) or outside (near the condenser unit). You can use a wet/dry vacuum cleaner to get rid of debris in the evaporator drain.
Step 3 – Change Blower Filter
Changing your blower filter is something that is dependent on where you live. Dusty environments necessitate an additional change of filters. Your HVAC system blower filter needs to be changed out at least twice a year. And ideally, this should be just before the “heating” season starts and then another time, right before the “cooling” season. Something you need to look at is that the airflow rating of the existing filter and the new filter element should match. The filter is usually found in the enclosure at the end of the fresh air return duct. Removing this from the enclosure is simple.
If you’re done with all the steps above, your HVAC and AC unit should be a lot cleaner and more effective at controlling the temperature. You can now turn on the power and test if it is working correctly.
HVAC Maintenance – Professional (What You Need To Leave to the Pros)
Air conditioners and HVAC systems need to be periodically serviced by the experts to keep it running efficiently for a long time.
Sizing your air conditioning system
When you require a new air conditioning installation for your home, estimating what you need by yourself can result in you buying an HVAC system that is either too big or too small for your home. You need a professional who can give you the right numbers when it comes to outfitting your home with an air conditioning unit. HVAC professionals work out your system depending on factors like the volume of cooling, ambient temperature, and duration. They call this the cooling load calculation, and it is measured in how many “tons” of cooling is required.
Regular inspections and maintenance
While a lot of people can take care of basic day-to-day tasks, it takes specialized people to carry out in-depth inspections of your HVAC system. An actual annual maintenance of an air conditioner calls for experienced hands and should not be taken lightly as there are several things that require careful calibration and checking. Maintenance and tuning can only be carried out by people who possess the right set of skills and tools with enough experience working in the refrigeration industry. Regular HVAC servicing can eliminate a lot of problems.
An air conditioner is a complex ecosystem of electric wires, motors, and tubes which makes it inaccessible for people who are not familiar with the systems. While a lot of people might be tempted to check electrical faults by themselves, this is not advisable. Their circuits are quite complicated and there might eventually be shorts due to improper wiring.
When the compressor in a central cooling system begins to turn on and off in a short stretch of time, like every 15 minutes, it can put a lot of strain on the unit. This is complicated to solve because there might be a number of possibilities as to why this happens. This should be taken care of quickly as this puts considerable strain on your air conditioning system and could lead to premature wearing out of components or even total breakdown. What makes this is especially difficult to pin down is the number of probable systems that could be at fault. This is a perfect example of what you should let an experienced HVAC expert handle.
HVAC Maintenance Pro in Jacksonville, Florida Area
If you’re looking for HVAC contractor in Jacksonville, AC Designs Inc. can help you with your heating and cooling needs including air conditioning repair and maintenance. Having more than a decade of experience, we are highly recommended. We offer several packages for home or commercial applications.
Annual HVAC Maintenance – Why Is It Important?
Regular maintenance is something that you shouldn’t put off and this is especially true when you consider HVAC systems. This is because while they are structurally robust, some of their internal calibrations are sensitive to external conditions.
Another factor is the running time – a typical HVAC system works around an extended operational schedule.
There are significant benefits to be gained when you carry out periodic maintenance on your HVAC systems. The fact is that regular HVAC maintenance costs can save you from much more costly repairs later.
Let’s take a look at benefits that regular maintenance of your HVAC systems can offer:
Cheaper repair bills
Trust us when we say that HVAC repair bills can get quite expensive if you neglect it till the day it breaks down. And unlike your car, you don’t have an alternative when your own home gets too hot or cold! You’ll find that your repair bills are minimal when you follow scheduled maintenance cycles. You can detect some problems by keeping an ear open to the sounds your HVAC system produces. If there are strange noises from the HVAC system then you might need to call an HVAC service.
Saving on utility bills
Regular maintenance means that you’ll end up saving money on utility bills. This is because when you maintain your HVAC system, it becomes more efficient at keeping your house at a specified temperature. This results in lower energy bills as the system is not using as much energy as it was before being cleaned.
Prevent total breakdown
There are times when people completely neglect care for the HVAC system, and eventually you’ll be stuck with a non-starting HVAC system. What is worse is that it will become considerably more expensive if you want to get it up and running. Regular HVAC service can make sure that your HVAC system does not breakdown.
Equipment lasts longer
When it comes to HVAC systems like air conditioners and furnaces, they last a lot longer when you maintain them at the proper intervals. Since these systems are interdependent on each other, if one system fails, you’ll notice that several other systems fail in a cascade effect. This makes it important to take care of all the systems at regular intervals.
Safer system operation
An important part of maintenance is that it makes the equipment safe to operate. An air conditioner unit consumes a lot of power, and electrical faults can definitely cause fire hazards or worse – electrocution. Also, your furnace needs to be checked for structural integrity to ensure there are no issues that could negatively affect your air quality. Periodic checking by a professional of your electrical lines and structural integrity of your HVAC components should prevent any of this from happening.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do I best keep my home comfortable and at the right temperature?
There are several measures you can take to keep your home environment at the right temperature all year around. Interior shades can help with heat loss as well as solar heat gain – preventing uneven temperatures also means less load on your HVAC system. Proper home insulation is instrumental when you need to maintain a specific temperature throughout your home. Your local HVAC expert can help you with this.
What is the right level of humidity in the house?
Setting the indoor humidity range between 35% and 50% is optimal without producing condensation in the windows. This is important because condensation can encourage the growth of mold, which leads to respiratory ailments.
Can I reduce my energy bills?
Carrying out regular maintenance of your HVAC system keeps it working efficiently. As a result of this, less energy is needed to keep the unit properly functioning. An HVAC system that is not maintained consumes more energy due to malfunctioning components.
What is the right interval to check my air filter?
Air filters need to be checked at least once a month. You need to check if your air filter is disposable and if so, you should do away with it once it gets dirty. Some air filters last for a few months depending on the type and manufacturer. It’s best to check up on the information document or manual in this case.
Is a programmable thermostat worth the extra cost?
We think so because it can reduce about 20% of cooling costs as far as your HVAC system is concerned. When you think of it in the long run, that’s a lot of money saved. It also gives you more precise control of your HVAC system.
Air Conditioner Maintenance Checklist
This checklist was created by AC Designs Inc, who have been serving the Jacksonville and St. Augustine area for more than a decade.
How to keep your HVAC system working like new
Checklist – Outdoor unit
- Check and clean the condenser unit of leaves and debris
- Check for proper refrigerant levels, adjust as required
- Check the coil as well as the cabinet for dust and debris
- Check the drain pan to see if there is anything obstructing the flow
- Check the fan and motor for signs of wear and tear
- Check compressor tubing and wires for damage
Checklist – Indoor unit
- Check the blower housing for debris and clean as necessary
- Check evaporator coil for proper drainage, clean as required
- Check fan motor and belt, lubricate (older models) motor and replace the belt if required
- Check the ignition system and safety controls, clean and adjust as required
- Check ductwork, make sure there are no leaks
- Check air filter, clean or replace if required
- Check control box – wiring and connections
Air conditioner and HVAC maintenance is important and something you should not put off. While it might not seem necessary at times, preventative maintenance is better than having to repair a broken down HVAC system. The key is to get in touch with an HVAC expert for regularly scheduled service calls.