Summer time calls for a lot of care and precaution when it comes to our air conditioning units cause our days and nights depend on it. We bring a few suggestions and tips that will keep your AC unit up and running through these hot months.
We suggest that for all technical issues you call a professional, but a little maintenance and cleaning tasks can be done at home to ensure efficiency and keep the need for a professional absolutely minimal. Here, we are explaining how the central air conditioner works.
Before working on a central air conditioner, always turn off the power to the condenser at the service panel, as shown below. The condenser also typically has a 240-volt weatherproof disconnect box located near the unit; this contains a lever, fuses, or a circuit breaker to shut off the condenser. Turn this off, too.
(Note: The condenser contains a capacitor that stores an electrical charge and can be dangerous; allow about a half hour for the charge in the capacitor to dissipate. As an added precaution, avoid touching all electrical components. The furnace or air-handler cabinet often has a separate switch or a circuit breaker in the main electrical panel to control it. Shut this off, too.)
This is the easiest and often most important step. Clean or replace your air-handler filters twice a year or whenever they begin to look clogged with dust. If you don’t, air flow will be restricted, reducing efficiency, and you will re-circulate dust into your home.
Clean the A/C Condenser Coils
A central air conditioner’s condenser unit, typically located outdoors, is like a large fan in a metal box with sides that look like grilles. Ideally, it is protected through the winter by a condenser cover or tarp to prevent accumulation of debris inside it. Otherwise, it is likely to contain leaves, yard debris, and dirt—and you will need to clean it.
A large fan inside the metal box moves air across radiator-style condenser coils. If debris has gotten inside the unit, dirt has probably clogged some of the coils. Anything that obstructs the flow of air will cut down the condenser’s efficiency, so these coils should be cleaned at the beginning of every cooling season if they are clogged.
To clean the coils, you’ll need to remove the side and top panels or protective grilles from the condenser unit, using a screwdriver or a nut driver, depending upon the type of fasteners that have been used. Be sure the power to the unit is turned off before you open up the condenser. Just unscrew the side panels and pull them away from the unit, and then lift off the top, which may be heavy due to the weight of the fan attached to it. Don’t tug any of the wires connected to the fan.
Using a refrigerator coil brush or a soft brush on a vacuum, gently clean the coils from the outside of the unit. Be careful not to bend the delicate fins or damage the coils. If you do bend the fins, you can straighten them with a “fin comb” made for this purpose. After cleaning from the outside, vacuum the coils from the inside.
To release stubborn debris, spray on a commercial coil cleaner from the inside, being careful not to spray the fan or electrical components. Sometimes it’s necessary to use a hose with a trigger-style nozzle to blast dirt and debris out of the coils from inside the unit with a strong but focused stream, but be very careful if you do this. Take care not to bend the fins, flood the area, or spray water on electrical components or the fan motor so cover those parts with a plastic garbage bag. Also be aware that doing this can cause mud to block some of the areas between the fins, so you will need to be thorough.
Clean and Clear Debris
Scoop leaves and debris out of the base of the condenser and, if it has a drain, make sure the drain is clear.
Use the vacuum and a rag to clean the blower’s fan blades. Then tighten any loose mounting bolts and, if the fan motor has oil ports, put a few drops of lightweight oil or spray WD-40 into the ports for lubrication. Mop up any excess water inside the unit, and then reassemble the condenser.
Cut and remove any weeds or vines that may obstruct airflow through the condenser unit.
Check the Coolant Lines
The refrigerant tubes or pipes that run from the evaporator on the air handler to the condenser outside are typically covered with foam coolant line insulation to prevent them from losing energy. If you see areas where the insulation is frayed or missing, replace it. To do this, install foam insulation sleeves or wrap the lines in a spiral fashion with foam insulation tape (you can cut both with a utility knife).
Test the Unit
Allow the unit to dry thoroughly and then turn the power to the condenser back on by doing the following: First, turn the thermostat in your home to OFF. Then turn on the power at both the disconnect box and at the main panel. Last, switch the thermostat to COOL.
At any point, if you think you will not be able to handle this, call a professional and get a thorough job done. And sit behind and enjoy the summers.