Air Conditioner Maintenance Guide
AC units need maintenance to keep running smoothly. If you neglect maintenance on your AC, it’s more likely to break down and you might have to shell out big money on expensive repairs. Plus, it’s miserable to have a poorly functioning AC during the warmest months of the year.
Doing regular maintenance on your AC unit is the best way to keep it running efficiently which saves you money on energy bills and headache down the line.
While some minor maintenance checks can be done on your own, the best way to do maintenance on your AC in Florida is to schedule biannual tune-ups with a team of licensed HVAC specialists like Hurricane Air Conditioning.
Table of Contents
- Air Conditioner Maintenance Guide
- What Maintenance Does Your Air Conditioner Need?
- DIY vs. Professional AC Maintenance
- DIY AC Check
- Professional AC Maintenance
- Benefits of Hiring a Professional HVAC Specialist
- AC Maintenance Checklist
- Changing Air Filters
- Fix AC Leaks
- Condensate Drains
- Clean and Clear Space Around the Outdoor AC Components
- Clean Condenser and Compressor
- Clean Condenser Fan
- Have a Professional Perform Annual AC Maintenance
- Contact Hurricane Air Conditioning to Schedule Regular AC Maintenance
- AC Maintenance FAQs
What Maintenance Does Your Air Conditioner Need?
AC units are comprised of several moving and complicated mechanical parts that all need to work together to function effectively and efficiently. These parts include motors, pumps, electrical components, and more that can all start to fall apart if not properly cared for. Years of neglect can cut a HVAC systems life short, so it is important to conduct regular maintenance to check these parts for signs of deterioration or failure. Some of the basic cleanup of your AC unit can be done on your own. However, most of the other HVAC maintenance tasks are best left for HVAC professionals.
DIY vs. Professional AC Maintenance
ACs are very complex machines and there are many different elements that may require maintenance.
Generally, it’s best to have professionals do maintenance on the interior parts of the machine or anything involving circuitry, gas pipes, or safety mechanisms. However, it’s quite easy to clean parts of your AC unit, like the air filters and fins. While it is important to do your part in keeping parts clean and free of debris, these parts still require a professional look to ensure that all parts are working cohesively together without prompting any issues.
An experienced HVAC technician will be able to help while also doing a faster and more thorough job. They’ll also be better equipped with the tools necessary to do HVAC cleaning and repair tasks.
DIY AC Check
Removing dirt and debris from the AC unit is the greatest maintenance need. The air filters, fins, and outdoor unit can accumulate dirt or debris over time, whether or not you’re actively running the AC. All this dirt clogs up your AC unit and prevents air from passing through, making your AC unit work harder and use more energy. An AC unit that’s severely clogged may not be able to cool your home very well.
These tasks can be done as part of general home upkeep, but you should only do AC maintenance on your own if you truly feel comfortable and confident in what you’re doing. Don’t risk injuring yourself or causing expensive damage to your AC unit.
Professional AC Maintenance
When is it better to hire an AC maintenance technician instead of doing maintenance yourself?
- Not Sure What to Do: Hire a professional if you don’t feel comfortable handling any part of the AC unit, or if you lack the proper tools. You don’t want to accidentally damage the AC unit–which could increase repair costs and void your warranty.
- Safety Issues: Some AC components may present the risk of electric shock or exposure to toxic gas. Mishandling some components could even lead to a gas leak, which is a very dangerous situation. HVAC technicians know how to safely do maintenance on your AC unit.
- Service Agreement: Take advantage of the ease and cost of any service agreement you have with the AC manufacturer or HVAC company.
Benefits of Hiring a Professional
Here are the benefits of hiring professional technicians to do AC maintenance:
- Expertise: Qualified HVAC technicians know how to give your AC the most detailed maintenance possible and can do maintenance on parts that are too complicated for DIY fixes.
- Equipment: Professionals will come to your home with vans that are stocked with the right equipment to give your AC unit the proper servicing.
- Speed: Professionals know exactly what to do when they’re giving your AC unit a tune-up and will be able to complete maintenance services faster. Plus, HVAC companies usually offer emergency services in case your AC unit needs repair after hours or on holidays.
- Safety: HVAC technicians know how to work with the more complicated components that can be difficult or dangerous to handle without the proper training. They know how to keep your home safe and prevent serious mishaps that could put you and your family in jeopardy.
Hiring a professional is the best way to do preventative HVAC maintenance because many of the components that can break down are inside your machine and require deep knowledge and special tools to gain access to in order to service.
AC Maintenance Checklist
If you’re determined to do AC maintenance on your own, here are a few DIY maintenance tasks that are easy to do on your own.
Changing Air Filters
Changing the air filter is the most important HVAC preventative maintenance task you can do on your own.
Throughout the year, air filters accumulate dirt, which reduces the efficiency of your AC. Clogged air filters may also cause dirt to get passed on to the evaporator coil, which increases the risk of your AC overheating.
It’s best to change your air filter once per month during the cooling season. Clean air filters can improve energy consumption by 5% to 15%.
Air filters have an efficiency reporting value (MERV) from 1 to 12. Air filters with a higher number are better at filtering out dirt, but they also require your AC to pull more air (in other words, they use more energy). When you’re choosing an air filter, you might want to balance quality and energy-efficiency. You should also consider getting a reusable filter, which is also more cost-efficient.
Where can you find the air filter so you can swap it out?
- Central AC Systems: The air filter may be located just inside the AC unit, or just inside the air ducts in the walls or ceilings–every AC unit is different. The manufacturer manual can tell you exactly where your AC air filters are.
- Room AC: On room AC units, the air filter is mounted on the grill that faces into the room.
You might also want to change the filter on the blower, especially if your AC is in a dusty location. You can find the blower filter just inside the AC enclosure at the end of the return duct. The blower filter should be changed twice per year.
Fix AC Leaks
Leaks in the ductwork can cause a 30% loss of airflow, reducing the efficiency of your AC unit.
The best way to find a leak is to use the “incense trick.”
For central AC systems, light a stick of incense and hold it near the joints where the ducts connect. There’s a leak in the ductwork if the smoke billows. You can close smaller gaps by covering it with foil tape. However, larger gaps can be more complicated to fix and will most likely require duct sealing services to prevent further air loss. Hurricane Air Conditioning provides Aeroseal duct sealing services that are designed to quickly and effectively seal your existing ductwork without a massive overhaul of the current setup.
For AC units that are mounted in windows, hold the incense stick where the AC unit meets the window frame. You can close the gap by placing foam in it, and you can place tape over smaller gaps.
The evaporate drain can get clogged due to algae or mold buildup. A clogged drain can cause:
- Flooding that damages your floor or the components inside your AC unit
- Bad odors
- Excess humidity in the AC system, which can discolor your carpet and walls
In most AC units, the drainpipe is a PVC pipe that’s an inch wide. The drain might be inside or outside the unit.
Insert a stiff wire into the drain channel to remove clogs. You can use a vacuum cleaner to remove debris from the drain.
Clean and Clear Space Around the Outdoor AC Components
Dirt, leaves, and anything kicked up by your lawn mower could build up on and infiltrate your condenser unit. Keep the area around your condenser unit clean and trim foliage back at least 2 feet from the condenser.
Clean Condenser and Compressor
Dirt builds up on the condenser unit throughout the year. You can remove dirt on the fins by using a soft bristle brush or even a dry paint brush. You can also use a vacuum to remove dirt.
Be careful when you’re removing wiping the fins. The fins are very fragile and can be easily bent or damaged, which blocks airflow into your AC.
On some AC units, you might have to lift the box to access the fins. See the manufacturer’s manual for your AC unit for instructions on how to do this. If this step is needed, it may be better to call in a professional and have them do it during regular maintenance to prevent damaging the exterior unit.
Clean Condenser Fan
Lots of dirt and debris can accumulate on the condenser fan, and it’s common for leaves to fall in and get stuck.
You can wipe down the fan with a damp cloth. On many AC units, you can remove the fan by unbolting it from the condenser—just be careful when you’re doing it.
After wiping the fan with a damp cloth, let it air dry before reinstalling it.
Have a Professional Perform Annual AC Maintenance
The best way to ensure your AC gets the best, most comprehensive maintenance is by scheduling an AC tune-up twice a year. It’s best to schedule a tune-up before and after the peak cooling season.
During biannual tune-ups, the HVAC technician will handle the regular tasks as well as the tasks that require specialized knowledge, experience, and tools:
- Clean or replace air filters
- Clean and inspect the condenser coils and evaporator coils
- Clean and inspect the blowers and fans
- Adjust / replace the fan belts
- Check the refrigerant levels
- Test for refrigerant leaks
- Make sure the operating temperatures are correct
- Making sure the electric control sequence is correct (so the heating and cooling system can’t run simultaneously)
- Inspect the electric terminals and apply non-conductive coating
- Clean or tighten circuitry & wiring to ensure electric connections are working properly
- Lubricate the motors, bearings and all other moving parts
- Ensure the thermostat is accurate
- Test the AC’s efficiency by running it through a complete cycle
HVAC technicians can do preventative maintenance on your AC and reduce the risk of your having a costly system failure in the middle of the cooling season.
Contact Hurricane Air Conditioning to Schedule Regular AC Maintenance
A functioning AC unit is a must-have during the hot and humid Florida seasons. Make sure your AC unit is prepared for the cooling season and schedule a tune-up with Hurricane AC. We offer a biannual and annual AC maintenance plan for Florida homeowners to keep your AC working at top efficiency so you can enjoy a comfortable home and the lowest possible utility costs.