A central air conditioning system can provide years of satisfactory cooling with relatively little maintenance. However, a seasonal start-up check and periodic maintenance is recommended.
The amount of do-it-yourself air conditioning maintenance a homeowner can do is limited. However, there are a few steps that can help the system operate trouble-free and minimize the potential for consequential damage. Ensuring adequate airflow is perhaps the most important homeowner responsibility.
Following manufacturer instructions, homeowners can generally:
- Clean or replace the filter(s) regularly.
- Keep leaves and other debris off the condensing (outdoor) unit.
- Keep the condensing coils clean by (very) carefully brushing and hosing them.
- Keep shrubs and other plant growth that might obstruct airflow at least 18 inches away from the condenser.
- Maintain insulation on ductwork in attics and other unconditioned areas.
- Check the condensate drain for any sign of blockage or leakage. Water should be dripping from the end of this drain line when the unit is running. If no dripping is noted, check at the indoor unit for any signs of leakage.
- Keep room input and return registers clear of furniture or other obstructions.
Selecting Trained Professionals
If your air conditioner needs more than the regular maintenance described here, consult a qualified air conditioning technician. A well-trained professional can provide a thorough pre-season or maintenance evaluation and servicing as needed. Insufficiently trained service technicians forsake proper diagnostic procedures and often only perform stop-gap measures to keep a unit going. Such short-sightedness can have a drastic effect on other components leading to consequential failure of the entire system.
At a minimum, a technician should:
- Check that the system contains the correct amount of refrigerant.
- Test for refrigerant leaks.
- Check for and seal duct leakage.
- Clean the blower components.
- Measure airflow through the evaporator coil.
- Verify the correct electric control sequence.
- Inspect electric terminals, clean and tighten connections.
- Oil motors and check belts for tightness and wear.
- Check the condensate system for backup or leakage.
- Check operating temperatures and pressures.
- Check the accuracy of the thermostat.
Remember, these tips are only general guidelines. Since each situation is different, contact a professional if you have questions about a specific issue.
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