To maintain the energy efficiency, safety, and useful life of your central air conditioning system, it is important that your home maintenance program include the proper care for your central air conditioner. These tasks should be taken care of in April, before your cooling season begins.
Depending upon the type of filter on your central air conditioning unit, you should change or wash it every 2-3 months. How often you wash or change it, depends upon how dirty the air is in your area. If you do not change the filter regularly, you reduce the amount of airflow through your ducts thereby wasting money trying to heat or cool your home because your fans are not moving air properly.
The air filters should be replaced or washed monthly during the heavy cooling season months (April through August).
When an air conditioner cools the temperature of the air, water condenses out of the air. Most central air conditioning units have a condensate drain to collect this water. This is typically located on the side of the inside fan unit.
This condensation system and drain should be inspected to make sure there are no obstructions, and that the hoses all fit properly. If the lines or drain become blocked or develops leaks, the result could be water spilling out around your unit, which can cause safety hazards and/or water damage.
The outside condenser unit is the big box located on the side of your house or building. This unit is where heat from the inside of your house is pushed to the outside (which is why the fan blowing air above the unit feels warm). Inside of the box are coils of pipe that are surrounded by thousands of thin metal fins. These fins give the coils more surface area for exchanging heat.
If there are any weeds or plants that have grown up around the condenser, remove them so that they don't interfere with the unit's airflow.
Remove any accumulated dirt on the fins with a soft brush. Don't use a garden hose to clean them. This will simply turn the dirt into mud and cause an even greater problem.
Use a carpenter's level to check the concrete pad that your condenser sits on, ensuring that it is still level. If the pad has settled over the course of the year, lift the concrete pad with a pry bar, forcing rocks or gravel pieces underneath until you level it out again.
Air distribution registers are the duct openings on your walls, floors or ceiling where the air conditioning comes out. These registers typically have a lever or wheel that allows the register to be opened and closed.
Make sure the registers are not blocked by furniture, carpeting, or drapes.
Duct cleaning will improve your indoor air quality. Dust contains pollutants, viruses, and micro organisms that can stimulate allergies. The air ducts retain moisture and provide a breeding ground for molds and mites. Cleaning the ducts will also clear the air of excessive dust and allow the air to flow more freely.
Always seek the advice of a trained maintenance professional or other repair technician with any questions you may have regarding maintenance or equipment condition.
If your air conditioner is old, consider purchasing a new, energy-efficient model. You could save up to 50% on your utility bill for cooling. Look for the ENERGY STAR and EnergyGuide labels.
Consider installing a whole-house fan or evaporative cooler if appropriate for your climate. Check out www.energysavers.gov for more information on efficient cooling.
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