If you practice good air conditioner maintenance, you’re sure to save yourself both grief and expense. Many air conditioner problems can be attributed to improper maintenance. The important types of A/C maintenance (central air conditioners) mainly have to with cleaning and check-ups. Most of these can be done yourself, so don’t worry too much about costs–those occur when you DON’T do proper air conditioning maintenance! All of the maintenance tips should be done throughout the year, especially before and during the summer season.
Air Conditioner Maintenance – Cleaning
Let’s look at what should be cleaned when it comes to taking care of your air conditioner. The part of your air conditioning system that’s most exposed to dirt is obviously your compressor unit. This is the big, metal box outside your house.
To clean it’s components, first shut off the power (either a switch near the unit or a circuit breaker). Next, remove the top metal lid (access panel) or grill by taking out the screws holding it down. Your unit may have a side panel, which you should remove as well. Your goal now is to clear and wash away as much dirt and debris as you can from the coils and fins. The fins are what surround the coils, hundreds of thin, little metal pieces that you see on the outside of your unit. Be careful, as you may have already discovered how easily they bend. If the coils are just dusty, you can get away with taking a vacuum hose with a bristle brush attachment to it. Otherwise, use a garden hose and nozzle to spray out the coils and fins. It’s important to spray from the inside-out. You don’t want to get water on your fan motor. This is the little cylinder attached to the fan blades. Yours may have come out when you lifted off the top grill piece. It’s designed to get wet, so don’t worry if you get a little water on it. Remember to let things dry out as much as possible before running your A/C again.
If any of the fins on your unit have been bent or damaged (kids sometimes think it’s fun to poke at them!), you can find a “fin comb” or straightener tool such as this one. It will have various sides on it, with different size combs to fit your particular fin pattern and spacing.
Before you replace your panels, it’s always a good idea to clean your fan blades. You want those to be clean and free from grime or rust. They should also not be bent. If your blades are bent, but only minor, i.e. something you can easily work back into its original shape using hand pressure, then you should do so. If they are more severe, it would be best to replace them with new ones.
Moving inside to where your blower is (most likely a garage or basement), feel free to vacuum the area around your blower compartment (you’ll have to remove a grill panel there). This is the blower that moves air across the evaporator coils, which will be located directly above your fan called the plenum. If you can reach your vacuum hose in and around the plenum, it wouldn’t hurt. Many times, this is difficult though.
Air Conditioner Maintenance – Lubricating
On your compressor unit’s fan motor, you should see some small holes or ports. Add a few drops of household oil to these to lubricate the fan motor. Your model may require you to remove the fan assembly first. When you do this, you’ll see a few oil port caps or plugs. They may be plastic or metal; pry or flip them up to add your few drops of oil. If you don’t see any oil ports, your motor model may be sealed and not accessible.
In addition to the above air conditioner maintenance tips, if you have heavy usage or an older unit, it would be good to schedule tune-ups from a professional every so often (once a year at the most). They can test for potential electrical problems or catch if any refridgant has leaked out.
Also, make sure you change the air filter, as a dirty one only adds excess strain on your compressor and blower motor, causing them to heat up more than they should–excess heat is never a good thing!