Air Conditioners & how to look after them!

Thanks to Rob Parker at ThameSpec Home Inspections for this article!

With outside temperatures finally starting to rise, it won’t be long before we start to think about ways to keep the inside of our home cool.

Like most systems, your home’s central air conditioning system must be periodically inspected and maintained in order to function properly. Though an annual inspection performed by a trained professional is recommended, there are some simple tasks that can be performed by the owner. In either case, you should make sure the power to the unit is turned off before any work is done.

Air Con

You should remove any leaves, spider webs and other debris from the box of the air conditioner’s exterior unit as well as remove or trim foliage back at least a metre from the unit to ensure proper air flow.

The fins and coils inside the unit need to be kept clean in order for the unit to work at peak efficiency. This can also be done with a garden hose using low pressure. Using high pressure or a pressure washer could damage the fins. Bent fins can be straightened with a tool called a fin comb. The straightening of the fins and any other work on this should be done by a licensed heating and cooling contractor.

Make sure the exterior unit is level as possible and firmly positioned so as not to vibrate or rock which can damage the cooling lines. The larger of the two copper lines going into the home should be covered with an insulating material similar to the foam insulating tubes used to cover water pipes. If the insulation is missing, worn or damaged, it should be replaced.

Add lubricating oil to the motor. Check your owner’s manual for specific instructions.

Although you don’t have to worry about this now, when it comes to covering the exterior units for next winter, some experts say yes while others say no. I suggest you talk to your HVAC technician and follow their advice. Regardless, you should place something over the top of the unit to prevent heavy snow or ice that may fall from the roof and could damage the fan.

In the fall, when turning on the furnace, you should turn off the power to the A/C unit at the electrical panel so that it can’t be turned on by accident in the middle of winter which could cause damage to the unit. Also, I recommend that you delay turning on the unit until outside day time temperatures have been above 18 C for at least three days. Failure to do so may cause possible damage to the compressor.

The interior unit contains air filters designed to remove pollen, dust and other particles that would otherwise circulate indoors. The filter should be replaced on a regular basis. You may need to change the filter more often if home occupants have respiratory problems, you have pets with fur or if dusty conditions are present. 

On most central air systems this is the furnace filter unless it is a standalone system just for cooling. Most filters are typically rectangular in shape and about 50 cm by 40 cm, and about 2.5 cm thick. They slide into the main duct work near the inside fan unit on the cold air return side of the furnace. The filter should be periodically washed or replaced, depending on the manufacturer’s instructions. A dirty air filter will not only degrade indoor air quality, but it will also strain the motor to work harder to move air through it, increasing energy costs and reducing energy efficiency.

The cooling coil in a central air system is in the main duct work just above the furnace. It needs to be cleaned by a licensed HVAC technician and is not something the homeowner should attempt to do. The condensate lines and pump (if installed) at the furnace should also be cleaned and inspected for proper operation. These lines pump drain water away, and if not functioning properly could cause damage to the HVAC system.

The units (exterior and interior) should also be checked for proper gas pressures once a year by a licensed HVAC technician. If the gas pressure is too low or if the gas has leaked out, damage could be caused to the unit. If the unit freezes up and ice forms on the exterior unit it is a good indication the unit is low on gas and needs to be repaired or serviced.

Regular maintenance of your central air conditioner will help keep it in good operating order and increase its efficiency and useful life of the overall system.

The original article can be viewed here.

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