Annual air conditioning maintenance can save you big on repair bills while keeping your home comfortable and cool. By spotting minor problems early — like a refrigerant leak — your HVAC technician can prevent low refrigerant levels from burning out your compressor and costing you the thousand dollars or so it would cost to replace.
Some annual maintenance tasks are very easy, and some are a little more difficult. If you are concerned about any of the following items, the best decision is to call a professional and don’t risk getting injured or damaging your air conditioner.
Here are 10 annual air conditioner maintenance tasks you and your HVAC technician can do to keep your system running optimally.
1. Clean the coils. Make sure power is disconnected before doing this. Then, open the disconnect switch box and remove the power plug, turn off power with the shut-off handle, or remove the fuse plug. You should also turn off the breaker to the unit in the electrical service panel in your house. Wait a few moments before proceeding to allow stored electrical charge in the system’s capacitors to dissipate. Wet the coils with water from your garden hose, then spray commercial air conditioner coil cleaner (which costs less than $20 from an HVAC suppler) on the coils. Let it sit for 15 minutes or so and rinse thoroughly with the hose. Recommended: Professional
2. Check electrical controls. This is a job for a technician, and it won’t take more than a few minutes. Recommended: Professional
3. Make sure the condensing unit is not covered up. Your air conditioner needs to draw air in, but it can’t do this well if it is blocked. If you’ve stacked up lawn furniture, lawn clippings, leaves, or anything else around your outside unit, move them out of the way to improve air flow and help the unit run more efficiently. Homeowner DIY
4. Check that the concrete pad that the condenser rests on is level. You can do this with a regular carpenter’s level. Check front to back and side to side on top of the unit. If the pad has settled and is not level, you or your technician can lift the concrete pad with a lever and place rocks under it to bring it back to level. Your system operates most efficiently when it is level. Homeowner DIY
5. Check refrigerant levels. This is something that requires a gauge that HVAC technicians carry. While you could get your own meter, this is a maintenance task that a technician can do easily, usually for just the cost of a service call. If refrigerant levels are low, and there is a leak, it needs to be located and repaired right away to avoid burning out the compressor. Recommended: Professional
6. Oil fan motor if necessary. To do it yourself, make sure power is shut off to the system and remove the fan cage holding the fan motor in place. To get to the oil ports on the motor, turn the cage assembly upside down. The oil ports are located on top of the motor below the fan blade. Remove oil plugs and add 3 drops of multi-purpose 3-in-one oil. Next, spin the blade by hand so that the oil will disperse within the fan. Replace oil plugs and wipe up any excess oil. While you can use the instructions above…we still say… Recommended: Professional
7. Clean dirt from the system drain and cap it. Use a vacuum to clear the outside drain, and cap it with a cap you can get from any hardware store. Done yearly, this cuts down on backup in the drain that can cause mold growth and possible water damage. Homeowner DIY
8. Calibrate the thermostat. Tape a standard thermometer to the wall next to your wall thermostat. Wait 30 minutes for it to adjust to the environment. Check it against the reading on the wall thermostat. If the readings differ, get your HVAC technician to clean the thermostat’s internal mechanism and repeat the process. If readings are still off, your technician can replace the thermostat. Homeowner DIY or Recommended: Professional
9. Give the condenser a checkup. This is a multi-step process your HVAC technician will do. It involves checking electrical resistance to determine if the motor is working properly. Sometimes you can get a few more years from your condenser by adding hard start capacitors that give the unit a boost to get it started. If this doesn’t help, you probably need to replace the condenser. Recommended: Professional
10. Change the air filter. This is something you should actually do more often – every 1 to 3 months. When filters get clogged up with dirt and dust, your air conditioning system has to work harder to draw air through the system, making it run inefficiently. All you have to do is use a screwdriver to open the grill over the filter, remove the filter, and replace it with a new one of the same size. Filters only cost a few dollars. Homeowner DIY
It is the perfect time to get your Air Conditioner some maintenance! Call Cottam Heating & Air Conditioning to schedule a checkup for your system. You can call 718-885-3328 or visit us online at www.cottamhvac.com