Air Conditioners 101: How to Get the Most Life Out of Your Unit
Want to get 15 years out of your central air conditioner? Learn how to provide the proper maintenance.
If the thought of enduring a summer heat wave is making you sweat, it might be time to get your air conditioner into shape. When it comes to home air conditioner maintenance, an ounce of prevention each season can provide additional years of cool comfort. In fact, when maintained properly, a central air unit can have a lifespan of 10-15 years.
Keeping the air filters clean can lower an air conditioner’s energy consumption by 5 percent to 15 percent.
Do-It-Yourself Air Conditioner Maintenance Tips
Here are some seasonal tips that homeowners can do themselves to get more life out of their central air conditioner:
• Spring and Fall: Clean any dirt or debris with a low pressure hose.
• Summer: Shrubbery, plants and other landscape materials should be trimmed to provide a clearing of 2-feet around the unit, according to energy.gov. This is because landscaping can block airflow around the unit. Be sure to monitor the unit periodically for debris from dryer vents, lawn mower clippings, and leaves.
• Winter: Cover the air conditioning unit with an approved cover that allows the unit to breathe. General duty tarps used as covers can cause water to enter the unit and not evaporate properly, which can cause rusting and corrosion.
To get the maximum lifespan out of an air conditioner, yearly AC tune-ups should be conducted before using the unit for the season. Air conditioner preventative maintenance can extend the life of an air conditioning unit by 15 years, but must be done by a professional technician, as they include electrical safety checks and refrigerant measurements.
What’s Involved in a Professional Air Conditioner Tune-Up?
A comprehensive tune-up lasts approximately one hour. Tune ups usually are scheduled when outside temperatures will be 65 degrees or warmer in your region, to allow for proper readings by refrigerant calibration instruments.
If your air conditioning unit is blowing warm air, making loud noises or tripping circuit breakers, it is time to get a tune-up.
An air conditioner tune-up starts with verification that all components are functioning properly. This testing includes the compressor, electrical capacitors, contactors and the disconnect switch. If a component on your AC unit requires replacement or repair, the technician should attempt to repair it at that time.
Next, the refrigerant system is checked to ensure the refrigerant is charged and balanced properly. During an air conditioner tune-up, the AC coils are also cleaned. Lastly, the air filter at the furnace should be changed and the thermostat should be tested to verify it is set properly.
Benefits of an AC Tune Up
In addition to lower energy usage and money savings due to more efficient operation, routine air conditioner maintenance and tune-ups will reduce the likelihood of a breakdown.
In fact, keeping the air filters clean can lower an air conditioner’s energy consumption by 5 percent to 15 percent, according to energy.gov.
But most importantly, regular maintenance will add years to the life of an air conditioning unit and provide homeowners with peace of mind.
Maintenance vs. Repair
Tune-ups can also be useful when an air conditioner is not performing its best. If your air conditioning unit is blowing warm air, making loud noises or tripping circuit breakers, it is time to get a tune-up. To save money on unnecessary air conditioning service calls, explore the previously mentioned simple maintenance tasks before calling in a professional.
When in doubt, homeowners should engage in routine maintenance with a professional to ensure everything is just right. The best air conditioner service professionals can provide a tune-up within a week, and use seasonal email reminders or postcards to remind homeowners when a tune-up is due.
The summer is a time for celebrations and gatherings. When preparing for your next gathering, don’t overlook these simple air conditioning maintenance tasks, unless you wish to risk turning your relaxed get-together into a stifling mess. Use these tips to ensure a comfortable, ‘just right’ summer season.
- July 7, 2014
- By Patrick Murphy