Anyone living in central Texas knows the importance of having a good, working heating and cooling system. That goes for winter as well as summer. As blazingly hot as it can get outside in July and August, it can get just as bitterly cold during the winter months. But did you know that regular air conditioning preventative maintenance can keep your AC working efficiently for many years?
An efficient AC system uses less energy and fuel to run. That’s better for the environment, and also for your bank account. Regular checkups from an HVAC professional can save you money on your utility bills. Checkups also save you money over the long term by extending the life of your air conditioning system. If you have a home warranty, annual AC maintenance check-ups may even be a requirement for staying covered.
Furthermore, your family will be safer, healthier and more comfortable in your home if you keep up with maintenance. Unmaintained AC units can lead to dangerous carbon monoxide leaks. They can also lower the home’s general air quality, causing problems for people with asthma or other respiratory issues. Your home will also just feel better with a reliable AC that works, month in and month out.
Clearly, there are many benefits to keeping up with regular air conditioning maintenance. There are lots of things you can do on your own to keep your AC system in good working order. Other aspects of AC maintenance are best handled by a professional who knows how to service your AC unit safely and efficiently. A pro knows what to clean, check or inspect. They know how to head off minor problems before they turn into major, costly repairs. They can also quickly handle any needed repairs to keep your AC system running smoothly.
Things You Can Do to Maintain Your Air Conditioner
The best thing you can do to maintain your AC is to change out the air filters every 90 days. This can help prevent a number of problems, including your AC coils freezing up. Many people choose to buy disposable filters, while others opt for reusable ones. There are pros and cons to both types, which each homeowner should consider when deciding which type to use.
Disposable air filters can be expensive to buy month after month, especially higher-quality ones. Buying reusable filters can make good financial sense, since they can be used and reused for many years.
It’s important to be aware, though. Reusable air filters don’t trap tiny airborne particles as well as disposable filters do. They do a good job of trapping dust, but they aren’t very good at trapping pet dander or smoke, for example. A high-quality disposable air filter can filter out pet dander, smoke and even viruses and bacteria from the air in your home.
Whichever type of filter you decide to use, it should be changed out at least once every three months. If you use reusable filters, it’s a good idea to have two sets on hand. This way, you can put in a clean filter instead of waiting for the dirty one to dry after cleaning it.
It’s also important to remember that every household is different. If you have pets, you may need to change out your filters more often than once a month. This is also true if you smoke or live with a smoker. You’ll also need to change your filters more often if you live in a particularly dusty area, or someplace where pollen and other airborne allergens are a regular issue.
Regularly replacing air filters is the most important thing you can do to keep your AC running efficiently. But, it’s not the only thing you can do on your own. Some DIY homeowners take on other aspects of regular air conditioning maintenance as well. It’s relatively simple, for example, to open the top of your outdoor AC unit and use a shop vac to clear away any leaves or debris that have collected inside.
If you choose to do this aspect of AC maintenance yourself, be sure to do it as safely as possible. Before doing anything to the outdoor unit, you should turn off the power to the unit first at the thermostat and then at the breaker box. If there is an exterior shut-off box outside near the unit, turn off the power there as well for added safety.
While the power is off, you can also use a hose to gently clean the fins on your outdoor unit. Be sure to spray from the inside of the unit outward. Don’t use a pressure washer, since a strong flow of water can damage the fins. A gentle flow from the hose should do the trick.
If the unit has any bent or damaged fins, you can use a butter knife to gently straighten them back into place. Finally, you can clean the area around the AC unit by raking away leaves or sweeping up debris. If there are tree branches hanging over the unit, it’s a good idea to trim them back so leaves don’t fall into the unit.
Inside the house, you can check your furnace’s drain pan and clean out its drain line with vinegar. This should be done while the power to your AC is still turned off. The drain pan should not have any water collecting in it. If water has collected in it, it’s likely that the drain line is clogged and needs to be cleared. Of course, if this has happened, you probably have other problems, like a ceiling leak from the water that has overflowed out of the pan or a musty smell coming from your AC.
Cleaning the drain line once a month can help to prevent clogs as well as mold and algae buildup. To do this, find the access point on the drain line, which probably has a cap or a cover on top. Pour a quarter-cup of regular, distilled white vinegar into the opening. Let it sit for a half-hour and then flush the line with water. Check the outside end of the drain line to make sure the water is coming out normally.
Professional Furnace Maintenance Checklist
If all of the above sounds like a lot to handle on your own, don’t worry. Changing your air filters once every three months is easy for most homeowners to do themselves. The rest of the maintenance tasks can be handled quickly and easily by an air conditioning professional. A reputable HVAC professional will have all of them and more listed on their furnace maintenance checklist.
Most people have their air conditioners serviced in the spring, in anticipation of the long, hot months ahead. But it also makes good sense to have your furnace serviced in fall as well, to prepare it for the cooler season that’s coming. This can help you catch any heating problems in advance, such as your furnace blowing cold air.
Whether you’re having your system inspected in preparation for summer or winter, here’s what a professional HVAC maintenance checklist should include:
- Checking your thermostat to make sure the Heat or Cool settings work correctly (depending on the season).
- Testing the force and temperature of the air blowing out of the registers in your home, to make sure the air reaches the temperature you’ve set within an appropriate time frame.
- Measuring the current and voltage on your AC motor and tightening all electrical connections on the unit.
- Lubricating any moving parts to extend the life of the motor.
- Checking the AC’s blower components and cleaning them as needed.
- Checking the coolant level (and topping it off, if needed).
- Cleaning the evaporator and condenser coils.
- Checking all gas, oil and/or heating components on the furnace to make sure they are operating correctly and aren’t cracked or dirty.
- Cleaning inside the outdoor unit as well as its fins.
- Checking and cleaning the drain pan and condensate drain line.
- Checking the ductwork that carries heated or cooled air to each room of your home, to make sure there are no leaks or cracks.
If the technician finds a problem with any of the components of your air conditioning system, they should discuss with you the options for fixing it. In many cases, it will be a simple AC repair or part replacement that can be taken care of during the maintenance checkup.
ABC Can Maintain Your AC and Heater
There are a lot of complex steps involved in maintaining your heating and cooling systems. Instead of maintaining your AC yourself, let ABC Home & Commercial Services take care of it. Our licensed pros can maintain your system and notify you of any potential problems before they become bigger headaches. We can also help you decide if it’s time to install a new AC unit.