Prep Your Air Conditioner (for a Long Washington Summer)
Making sure that your central air conditioning is in top shape for the summer should be a priority every spring. It’s always a good idea to do basic maintenance on your HVAC system twice a year (before every cooling and heating season). While a furnace check is a bit more involved, the DIY steps you can perform on your A/C are relatively simple and not as time consuming.
We’ve compiled a few basic maintenance steps that will help ensure you stay cool throughout the long Washington summer!
Central Air Conditioners
The majority of central air conditioners have two parts: the outdoor (compressor/condenser) unit right outside your home and the indoor (evaportator) unit located near your furnace. You might have a heat pump instead of a furnace, if so, the indoor unit will be in the air handler. However, all of the steps we will go through will remain the same.
Checking the Outdoor Condenser Unit
- Shut off the Power – Before attempting any DIY maintenance on you’re A/C, make sure that the power is completely turned off on the unit. There should be a shut-off box outside, located near the condenser unit. You should also turn the power off entirely at the breaker box.
- Inspect Outdoor Unit Panels – The unit panels are designed to enclose and secure the electrical connections. If a panel is crooked, bent or missing, it could affect the unit’s performance and ultimately damage the equipment. If a unit panel has been damaged or is missing, call a technician to come out and make a diagnosis.
- Check Condenser Covers/Coil Blankets – Was the outdoor coil covered for protection over the winter? If so, it is important to make sure that it is secure. Any covers or blankets should also be removed from the unit before it is turned on. Starting the A/C while it is covered can be hazardous; damaging the components or even destroying the unit altogether.
- Inspect the Outdoor Coil – The A/C coils transfer heat and any obstructions can adversely affect the performance of the unit. If your yard contains trees, bushes or plants, there’s a good chance that foliage or branches may have blown into the coil. Clean away any debris you find in the coil as well as any detritus in close proximity to the unit. A shop vac would be ideal for cleaning away leaves and other organic material that might be lodged between coils.
- Repair Damaged Pipe Insulation – The bigger copper pipe is called the suction line. This pipe delivers refrigerant back to the compressor. If the suction pipe is not properly insulated it could cause a loss of required cooling, which may damage the unit – and waste substantial energy. The insulation should be intact to maintain system cooling. Make sure you replace any damaged insulation before starting the unit.
- Make Sure the Unit is Level – If your condenser unit is more than a few years old, the pad that it sits on may sink or tip a bit. A condenser unit that is not level is compromised and won’t run at capacity (and could potentially fail). Check it with a level and contact a technician if appears out-of-level in any way.
- Inspect Supply Vents and Return Grills – Go through your home and check all the supply vents and return grills. Inspect them for dust and debris, which can build up over time. If you have pets, consider cleaning the vents with a shop vac to clear away the hair Inspect both the supply and return air grills and vents to make sure that they are open and clean from dust and debris. If you own a pet you might consider using a vacuum to remove the fine hairs that can wreak havoc on these smaller units. Clean vents and grills will ensure maximum efficiency and keep utility bills down.
Checking the Indoor Evaportator Unit
- Change the Air Filter – One of the most important (and easy) procedures you can do on your own is changing the air filter. It is always a good idea to change the filter before the summer to ensure that it continues to run effectively. During the summer months when you are running it constantly, make sure to change it at least once a month.
- Check the Coil Drainage Hose – The coil’s temperature is lower than the ambient air, which causes the water to condense and drip into the tray underneath. This condensate flows to a drain, keeping the buildup from overflowing. The water flows through the coil drainage hose (also known as the condensate line) to the proper drainage line. Make sure that the hose is attached and properly secured.
- Test Run – Turn the power back on and then start a trial run. A good way to make sure the system is running properly is to let it run a cycle. Is the air cool? If the air isn’t cooling after running the unit for a couple of minutes, there is something wrong. Turn off the unit and go through our list again. After you have checked both the condenser and evaporator once more, turn it on again at the thermostat. If it’s still not producing cold air, call a professional technician and have it serviced.
Prepping your air conditioner in advance of the long Washington summer will help ensure that it runs at capacity all season. Remember to also have your A/C serviced annually by a professional technician, which will help keep repairs at a minimum and extend the life of the unit for years to come.
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