Now is about the time when your central A/C or window units start to get some heavy play time. But with the first day of summer barely behind us, there are a lot of hot days left for those appliances to continue to perform at their best. A quick maintenance check now will give you peace of mind and ensure that your cooling units won’t kick the bucket during the most critical part of the summer. Plus a regular check-up will likely extend the life of the appliance too. Here are some of the things that you can do.
Pick a cooler day, such as tomorrow, to work on your A/C as you’ll need to shut off the power. This means both flipping the switch on the button and either unplugging it from the wall or locating the exterior shut off box on a central A/C unit. Remember, these are run on electricity so it’s always better to be safe than sorry. If you have a breaker box, you can cut the power there too.
For those of you with an exterior compressor, it’s time to remove the fan. First, unscrew the fan cage with a screwdriver and then take the fan right out of the unit. You’ll be shocked to see how many leaves, pollen, and debris can accumulate here. Clean the interior of the unit out with a regular or wet/dry vacuum and wipe down the fan blades too. Any dust, dirt or pollen will slow your A/C down and since there has been so much this year, it’s worth doing a thorough job.
Next, use a garden hose to clean the fins from the inside out. I know I spoke about the wonders of a pressure washer last week, but A/C unit fins are delicate and a pressure washer will break them. For this job, stick to the garden hose with a light flow of water. After you clean the inside, you can repeat on the outside. If the exterior is really dirty, you can apply a non-toxic cleaning solution, but just be careful not to damage the fins by scrubbing.
Like I said, those fins are easy to break and you may notice that the metal is bent in some places. This can cause air flow reduction and less power in and out of your machine. Using a butter knife, straighten any misaligned fins, taking caution not to pierce the tubing underneath.
Now you can put the unit back together. I would clear all debris from around the base of the unit as anything that is constricting the airflow will make the unit less efficient. This is a good time to take a level to it as well. If the unit is out of alignment, this can cause improper function. Remember, the ground often shifts so checking it periodically is a good idea.
Finally, it’s time to move inside and clean the vents and filters. Most HVAC specialists will recommend changing the filters at least twice a year and for window units, I recommend cleaning them at least once a month. Not only will your air flow be more efficient, you’ll also reduce the amount of dirty air blowing through the house. When replacing filters, make sure to match the airflow rating from your previous filter to ensure that it will work properly.
Now it’s time to breathe easy and turn your units back on. Remember, there are some jobs that should only be tackled by a professional, so if you come across a leak, major rusting, or something else that doesn’t seem quite right, do yourself a favor and get in touch with an HVAC expert. An early catch might just save you from suffering through a stifling, uncomfortable summer and an expensive bill.
Bob O’Donnell is the owner of O’Donnell Bros. Inc., a Bristol-based home improvement company established in 1975. Email your questions for Bob to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line “Ask the Pro.” All questions may be considered for publication. To contact Bob for your remodeling needs, call O’Donnell Bros. Inc. at (860) 589-5155 or visit http://www.odonnellbros.com. Advice is for guidance only.