DON’T SWEAT IT! PREPARING YOUR AIR CONDITIONER FOR SUMMER: HELPFUL SERVICE TIPS FOR HOME AND OFFICE
It’s still early in the year, but summer is coming! In Texas and other hot, humid climates, the air conditioner is a necessity for every home and workplace. To ensure your comfort all season long, as well as keep costs in check, it’s important to check and service each AC unit before the start of the hot weather every year.
General Services and Checks
After fall and winter, your unit may have accumulated dirt and debris. Take off the outer casing of the unit (disconnect the power first!) and make sure that no leaves or twigs are still lodged inside. If it’s especially dirty in there, brush away the dirt. Be careful not to damage the coils or bend the delicate fins. You can also remove dirt with a shop vacuum. It’s not a good idea to use your hose to clean it, as you can create mud inside the machine, or get water onto the electrical components.
Air filters are essential to the working of your machine. If the filter is clogged with dirt, air will have a harder time getting through, forcing the compressor to work harder and reducing air flow and energy efficiency. Check yours often, and change them at least once a year.
Check your owner’s manual to see if there are other services you should perform, such as adding lubricating oil, and any bolts or mechanical parts that you should inspect. When you’re done, replace the covers, and check the area for vines and weeds before you go. Carefully restore power to the unit.
When the unit is on again, check for leaks in any ductwork and in seals around doors and windows. You don’t want cooled air to escape the house, nor do you want hot air leaking in. You should also check the insulation around the coolant lines, and replace it if it is frayed or missing.
If you feel that your air conditioner is not performing properly and have done all the recommended DIY servicing, it may be time to call an HVAC professional. It’s not wise to work on the compressor or coolant system without training.
Ways to Improve Efficiency and Lower Costs
Protecting the unit from the sun can make a big difference. Try to place it where it will be in the shade as much as possible, especially during the hottest part of the day. If you can’t relocate the unit, think about erecting a structure over it to shield it, without obstructing air flow.
Air conditioner units are rated for different amounts of square footage. With a little simple math, calculate the square footage of your home and use this as an important part of the purchasing process. If your home is near the top of the size range of a particular model, you should move up to the next size. The unit may cost more, but it will perform much more efficiently and give you the cooling power you need. If you add on to your home or are stuck with a unit that’s too small, consider adding small window or wall units to supplement the output of your main unit.
Temperature settings are an important thing to consider as well. You want to be cool of course, but turning your home or office into a refrigerator is not wise. Cooler air will escape faster with each opening of a door, and it will cost much more in energy to maintain a cooler temperature. It’s a good idea to invest in a programmable thermostat that holds the temperature at an moderate range, and can change it automatically based on your schedule. You can set your office to a warmer temperature during off hours, and your home to cool down when you’re on the way home. Don’t turn the unit off entirely – the cost to maintain a moderate temperature is less than the cost of bringing a high temperature down to a cool one.
Don’t put off these important checks and services! If you need professional servicing, time is of the essence. The hotter it is, the busier the technician will be (and the higher his prices are likely to be)!