We all regularly service our cars and we take that for granted. Unfortunately, we often forget that our appliances need regular care also in order to function properly. Among all appliances air conditioner units need regular service the most. Regular air conditioner maintenance isn’t needed only to get the most out of your machine but there are also a health issue involved. If you don’t maintain your air conditioner regularly, it can become a nestling ground for many very harmful bacteria. Also, dirt is reducing coil capability to absorb heat and clogged filters lead to increase in power consumption. Many companies will charge you a lot of money for regular air conditioner maintenance and the fact is that you can do all of that yourself without any training or equipment. Remember that you don’t need to refill or check refrigerants in your air conditioner every year, it’s normal that you check the refrigerants every five years and the majority of air conditioners runs for over 20 years without refilling. In this article we will explain you what you need to maintain and clean on your air conditioner every year.
In one of our previous articles Air conditioner buying guide we covered everything about types of air conditioners and how air conditioners work. If you aren’t familiar with air conditioner systems it would be best that you consult that article first and continue with reading this air conditioner maintenance guide. For general understanding of air conditioner parts and their location check out the diagram below. There are three types of air conditioners (central air conditioners, split system air conditioners and through air conditioners) but they all have same parts, just located differently.
Maintaining the condenser unit
The condenser is the part of our air conditioning system which is located outside and it is most important thing in air conditioner maintenance process. Condenser unit must be maintained at least once a year. In central air conditioning systems the condenser unit is located on the ground while split system air conditioners have wall mount condenser units. Through wall or window air conditioners don’t have separated condenser unit.
Condenser unit is prone to accumulate dirt and debris from trees, lawn mowing and dust which accumulates in the fins. Start your maintenance with turning off the power and removing the fan cage. Then using a vacuum cleaner clean the inside of the condenser. After that use the garden hose and spray water through the fins from the inside. Don’t use pressure washers because you may damage the fins and don’t spray from the outside because you’ll only push the dirt further in the fins. You’ll be able to remove most of the debris and dirt with your vacuum cleaner and water but if you want to clean your coils and fins completely you’ll have to use commercial cleaning spray like this Web Coil Cleaner. Simply spray the coil cleaner on the fins and coils and leave it to do it’s magic for about 15 minutes and then wash it out with a garden hose (again from the inside). Take notice that some cleaners need to be rinsed and some aren’t, always check the manual before use.
Once you washed the unit use the butter knife or fin straightening tool, like this Supco Fin Jack, and straighten bent fins. Remember to clear any vegetation at least 2 feet around the condenser to ensure proper air flow. Also, never cover the condenser unit, not even in the winter.
Maintaining the evaporator unit
The evaporator unit is the inside unit of your air conditioning system and it has to be maintained every year before you first start the air conditioner. First remove foil-wrapped insulation at front of plenum. Be sure to remove the tape carefully, because you’ll have to replace it later. Behind insulation is an access plate, which is held in place by several screws. Remove screws and lift off the plate. Now clean the entire inside of the evaporator unit with a stiff brush and clean the tray underneath the evaporator unit. Use the no rinse coil cleaner spray and spray the evaporator coil to clean it. To prevent building up of algae or mold inside the tray under the evaporator, pour a mixture of 1/2 cup of water and 1/2 cup of bleach in it after cleaning. All you have to do now to complete your regular air conditioner maintenance is to clean the air conditioner filter. If you have central heater and air conditioner which runs through the same filter then it’s best to change the filter after the heating season is over. If that isn’t the case than you can clean the filter with non abrasive soap and water, leave it to dry and put it back in. You can see visually if your filter is beyond cleaning and that you need to purchase a new one. Remember that you have to replace your air conditioner filter at least once every two years.
If you have a split system air conditioner then your filter is located under the top lid on the evaporator unit. Simply open the lid and you’ll see a mesh that can be pulled out. You can wash that mesh with warm water and soap, it’s much easier than washing a central air conditioner filter. Filter on split system air conditioners and window air conditioner usually don’t need to be replaced, they can always be washed again.
That’s all that you need to do to successfully complete you air conditioner maintenance. As you can see, the task isn’t hard at all, you just have to be thorough. Remember that you have to do all the steps every year before the cooling season starts in order to ensure best results from your air conditioner. If your air conditioner isn’t cooling properly even after you completed the maintenance then there is a malfunction and you should call the repairman or check out our review of Modern refrigeration and air conditioning manual.