This summer is predicted to be a hot one in Texas and across the country, and you don’t want to find out during the height of the season that that’s a problem with your AC. When you retreat to your home to find solace and comfort from the scorching heat, make sure that your system is in working order.
These are some maintenance tips to keep your air conditioner running smoothly throughout the summer. (Be sure to turn your AC off, and then shut off the power before you start.)
Your AC works hard to circulate air throughout your home, and your air filters play an important role in this process. When you have dirty filters, your system works harder and longer to cool the air – and could eventually cause your HVAC to fail.
“These filters should be changed every 2 to 4 months, depending on the HVAC system you have and whether you have pets or smokers in the house,” advises Richard Ciresi, franchise owner of Aire Serv, a heating and air conditioning installation and repair company.
Your cool air needs to come out of the air vent, so you don’t want to do anything to stop it. If you have floor vents, don’t put furniture or rugs on top of them. If you have floor-to-ceiling drapes that cover the floor vents, your cool air is getting trapped behind them. You can gather them on either side of the window and secure with a tieback, or use a plastic vent deflector to redirect air.
“Air conditioning systems should not have moisture within the refrigeration system,” warns Ciresi. There should be a moisture indicator located on the high or low-pressure lines of your system. “Once the system is running and the compressor has started, a color indicator on the pressure line will show if moisture is present,” Ciresi says. If there is any moisture in the refrigeration system, he says a trained air conditioning technician will have to vacuum the line and make any necessary repairs.
If your condenser coils are clean, your AC won’t have to work so hard. Ciresi recommends vacuuming them at least twice a year. “It is best to clean the condenser coils before starting the system for the season and again (around July or early August) when the weather starts to get hot for prolonged periods of time,” he says. If your system is close to trees, Ciresi says you may need to clean the coils more often to keep debris from entering the system and blocking the coils.
“The evaporator coil is an important part of an air conditioning system as these coils hold the refrigerant used to cool the air,” Ciresi says. “The heat transfer surfaces should be kept clean so airflow is not obstructed.” You can usually clean your evaporator coils with a soft bristle – not wire – brush, although you can also use a vacuum or can of compressed air. After most of the dirt has been removed, spray a mixture of liquid dish detergent and water on the coil, and then rinse with water.
Sometimes, refrigerant can leak out of the unit. You can usually tell this by an increase in your electricity bill if you haven’t been running it more than usual. Another sign is that the unit isn’t cooling as well as it usually does. Regardless of the set temperature, the unit doesn’t seem to be cool. In addition, there may be oily residue from the leak. (That oil could also be a sign that you have problems with the compressor). “Checking for leaks will prevent air conditioning systems from sustaining more damage, and it is also good for the environment,” Ciresi says.
If you get to know your HVAC and understand how it should work, you’ll know when something is amiss. “If the system is vibrating loudly, making abnormal sounds or not performing the way it was, you will want to have it checked by a licensed technician,” Ciresi says.
One other reminder: Make sure you’re not paying for air conditioning that you don’t need. Don’t cool empty rooms or an empty house – a modern thermostat can help you cut your electricity bills and keep your AC more efficient.
Above all else: Keep your cool this summer!
Terri Williams is a freelance journalist with bylines at The Economist, USA Today, Yahoo, the Houston Chronicle, and U.S. News & World Report. Connect with her on Twitter or LinkedIn.
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