Many homeowners rely on air conditioning units to run problem free and effectively in the home. However, many homeowners aren’t aware of proper maintenance and care required for the unit. Proper upkeep of these systems will ensure ideal operation, while resulting in significant cost savings on power consumption and increased operating life. In addition to cooling the temperature of a home, air conditioners also lower humidity and remove dust and dirt by circulating the air through filters.
Below, are easy to follow tips that will reduce repairs on air conditioning units and lead you to saving more money!
Keep It Level
The exterior system that houses the compressor and the condensing coils must be on a flat surface. If the unit is not level, it will not run efficiently and can lead to possible damage. Note: beware of leveling a unit yourself; the copper lines may not be as flexible as they appear.
Clean, Clean, Clean
Periodically, check if the coils and fan are clean. Clogged cooling coils may result in higher temperature output. For example, a coating of dust on the coils that is only a few thousandths of an inch thick can reduce efficiency from 10% to 15%. If necessary, clean the coils and fan with a hose and a soft brush. Before cleaning, always make certain the main power to the unit is turned off.
There must be an adequate amount of free space surrounding the exterior unit. It is recommended to have a minimum of one foot clearance all around the system and if the unit ventilates upward, there must be a minimum of four feet above the system for proper ventilation.
Rules of Temperature
Warning! Under any circumstance, never operate an air conditioner when the outside temperature is below 65 degrees, or in the morning when the overnight low temperature is less than 55 degrees. By turning on a cold unit, liquid ‘slugging’ of the compressor can occur. Unlike, refrigerant in its gaseous state, liquid (cold) refrigerant won’t compress and the unit will self-destruct.
‘Slugging’ is the greatest single-operational cause of premature failures of compressors. The danger of ‘slugging’ occurs within the first few seconds, not over a long period of time. When it’s cold outside, a short test may even result in a damaged compressor. When the cooling season is over, disconnect the AC by shutting off power at the breaker. This will eliminate accidentally switching the AC on in the winter.
Covering the Unit
Air conditioning units were built to resist the weather and generally, do not require a cover. In fact, concealing the unit completely can cause problems. Due to the tight constriction of the cover, moisture becomes trapped, which then ultimately leads to premature rusting. While there are many protective covers available that are slotted to help prevent moisture build-up, it is still recommended to avoid these items completely.
However, most damage to air conditioning units is reported during the springtime, due to rodents living in the unit and chewing on wiring. It’s also important to keep in mind that if your AC is subject to falling ice or other debris, the best method to follow for protection is to cover the top of the system with a piece of plywood and secured by a weight.
Generally, homeowners should change furnace filters regularly (four to six weeks on average). Clogged filters may result in reduced efficiency, burned out fan motors, and many other unwanted complications. To avoid these unwelcome problems, one should never operate an air conditioner (or furnace) without a clean filter in place. Remember, cleaning a clogged evaporator coil can be an expensive service call!
Schedule Regular Check-ups
It is best to have your AC serviced on a regular basis. Homeowners can consult the owner’s manual for proper intervals (US Department of Energy suggests every two years).
If frost is detected on the copper pipes, the fittings, or the cooling coils while the air conditioning is operating, replace or clean the filter immediately. If the frost doesn’t dissipate shortly thereafter, it is advised to call for service. Frost usually indicates a deficiency of refrigerant gas, restricted air flow, or some other fault.
Take Home Facts
Some units require the breaker to be turned back on 12 to 24 hours prior to operation. It is best to always consult with your service technician for proper operating procedures.
What is the Size of the AC Unit?
Usually represented in tons, the term came into use when standards were developed for measuring mechanical cooling capacity. At that time ice was commonly used for cooling. The standard was set equating one “ton” of cooling to the amount of energy needed to melt one ton (2000 lbs.) of ice over a 24-hour period.
For the technically interested, the exact figure for one ton of cooling is 12,000 Btu per hour (Btu stands for the British thermal unit, a measurement of heat or energy).