Air Conditioner Care and Cleaning

  • By: Cheli Scott
  • Date: Oct 20 2022

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Air conditioner care and cleaning

One of the best ways to save money, while keeping your home comfortable is having a proactive attitude about air conditioner care. With proper care and maintenance an air conditioner can last up to 20 years. While heating and cooling is one of your biggest monthly expenses, maintaining your outdoor unit will save hundreds in the long run.

Your air conditioner is an important part of your home. It doesn’t just keep your house cool, it improves air quality, reduces mold growth, and helps improve allergies. This impacts both your health and your mood.

In order to reduce utility bills and provide the best service possible an efficient air conditioner is necessary. If you want to keep your air conditioner running properly, periodic maintenance is required, but it is not complicated. With these tips you will be well on your way to keeping your air conditioning system in top shape.

An outdoor air conditioning unit behind a house

Maintaining air conditioners

While there are many things you can do yourself, it is wise to have a technician inspect your air conditioner once a year. The technician will check for damaged parts, check the condenser unit, inspect wiring, look for blockages, inspect hoses, and monitor the refrigerant levels. They will also test your thermostat and electrical components.

It is possible that over time hoses have degraded and started leaking, wires have been exposed due to weather, or there have been refrigerant leaks. Having a technician inspect annually can prevent your air conditioner from breaking down on a hot day.

There are health reasons for maintaining your air conditioning system as well. A properly functioning air conditioning system will reduce dust and particulate in your air. Dust and dander in the air can exacerbate respiratory issues.

An air conditioning technician working on an air conditioner

AC unit filters

The most frequent maintenance task you will have to do is changing your air conditioner’s filters. According to experts this is also the most important maintenance task you can do. Depending on the size of your home, you may have to change more than one filter. Some filters are replaceable, while others can be cleaned regularly with a vacuum cleaner.

If you have a particularly dusty home or pets, you may find you need to replace your filters more often, as much as every two weeks. According to Energy.gov a clean filter lower can your air conditioner’s energy use by up to 15%, so it is important to check monthly.

Replacing your filters will improve indoor air quality as well as improve its efficiency, saving you money. A properly functioning air filter will also prevent your air conditioning unit from getting dirty quickly.

What kind of air filter should you use?

There are four main kinds of air filters. Your air conditioning unit will have its own requirements for filters, but it is good to be aware of what is available.

Depending on the conditions of your home you may want to review the MERV rating of an air filter before you buy it. The MERV rating is the Environmental Protections Agencies’ rating to report a filter’s ability to capture certain sized particulate. For example, a homeowner with pets and allergies, will require a product with a higher MERV rating in order to keep their cool air clean and indoor air quality high.

A clean and dirty air filter side by side

HEPA Filter

A HEPA is the highest level of protection from airborne particles that you can find. They catch 99.7% of airborne particles. They are ideal for people with respiratory health problems, such as asthma, because they do an excellent job of filtering air. They are capable of removing pollen, mold, bacteria, and other common particles that find their way into your air.

While these filters are the most effective, they are also the most expensive. However, they only need to be replaced every few years.

Reusable Air Filter

Reusable filters are air filters that can be used more than once. They are more expensive than disposable filters initially, but will save you money over time.

However, they are prone to mildew growth so need to be inspected regularly and thoroughly cleaned. Some filters can be cleaned with soap and water, while others can be cleaned with a vacuum.

Flat-Paneled Fiberglass Filter

This type of filter is not particularly good at filtration, but is disposable and inexpensive. They are composed of fiberglass layered with a metal grate. The filtration power of these filters is very low, filtering only 20% of air particles.

Pleated Air Filter

Pleated air filters are made of fabric arranged into folds for higher surface area. Because of their design they are pretty good at filtering air and can be disposable or reusable. They are more expensive than flat-paneled fiberglass filters, but they are less expensive than a HEPA filters, so they make a good medium.

a man changing an air filter

Cleaning your air conditioner

One of the tasks that you may need to complete is cleaning your air conditioning unit. When the components of the air conditioner are blocked and clogged, your air conditioner cannot do its work properly and has to work harder, costing you money. You can visibly examine your air conditioner and see if it dirty. If after you inspect your unit, you find there is dust and debris blocking air flow, it is time to clean it.

You can also have your air conditioner professionally cleaned, if you don’t want to do the work yourself.

An outdoor air conditioner behind some tulips

Turn off the power to your air conditioning system

In order to clean your air conditioner safely, you will need to turn off the power to the unit. There should be a shut off box near the unit to turn off power and you will also need to shut off power to your air conditioner from your indoor breaker box.

A breaker box

Clean up large debris

Look around your unit for furniture, toys, branches, and gathered leaves crowding the unit. It’s best to create at least 2 feet of clear space around the air conditioner for proper air flow.

Also remove smaller debris from the unit like leaves, branches, and twigs from the outside.

When the outside area is cleared, use a screwdriver to remove the fan grill from the unit. If there are any leaves or debris inside, remove them.

A pile of leaves with a broom

Clean and straighten the fins

While you have the fan grill removed, take this time to spray the inside of the fins of your air conditioner with a garden hose to remove dust and grime. Be careful to use a gentle stream so that you do not damage the fins.

In order to straighten any bent fins that may obstruct air flow, you can use a fin comb or a dinner knife to carefully push the fins back into alignment.

A person using a hose to clean an air conditioner

Clean the evaporator coil

Over time the air conditioner’s evaporator coil will begin to collect debris, so while you are doing your annual maintenance, it is a good time to clean it. Using a soft brush, gently clean the coils to remove large debris.

Then, you can use a commercial cleaning product designed for this purpose to dissolve any grime. Simply follow the directions on the packaging to complete the cleaning.

Check that your ac unit is level

An unbalanced air conditioning unit is more likely to break down in the long run, so you should check annually that the base of your air conditioner has not shifted or sunk. You can use simple treated shims under the unit to level it out.

An air conditioner with the fan grill removed

Clean condensate tube

If you see water collecting around your air conditioning unit, you may have a blocked condensate tube. A blocked tube will increase humidity levels in your home and can cause water damage. Slime builds up in these tubes over time and can cause obstructions.

To prevent this from happening it is a good idea to clean them occasionally with a stiff brush to remove any build up that may have developed. You can also purchase commercial tablets that will keep your drain clear when inserted into the pipe. Look for them at your local hardware store.

How often should you perform HVAC maintenance?

Air conditioner maintenance should be performed monthly, bi-annually, and annually. It may seem inconvenient, but setting aside a few hours will greatly extend the life of your central air conditioner.

Monthly, you should check your air filters and replace or clean them as needed.

Bi-annually you should clean your air conditioner and make sure nothing is blocking air flow.

Annually, you should have your air conditioner serviced and inspected by a technician to check for more complicated issues.

ac repair high springs fl

Maintaining your air conditioning system

Maintaining your air conditioning system is not hard, but it does require you to set a few hours aside on your calendar to complete some simple tasks. With proper maintenance your air conditioner will keep keep your home cool for decades.

However, if you are uncomfortable with HVAC maintenance you should feel free to work with a professional technician like the ones at bhild.com. Call us today, or fill out our form here for a free estimate on HVAC services today!

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