With the temperature rising every week here in Warrenton MO, the last thing you want is an issue with your A/C system. The trick to ensuring your A/C system will continue to function properly when you need it is periodic inspection and maintenance. I know that maintenance can sound boring and it is, fortunately most of us can perform any of the tasks below as regular maintenance to the system very easily.
- July or August is the perfect time to trim foliage back at least a metre from the unit to ensure proper air flow.
- Remove any leaves, spider webs and other debris from the unit’s exterior condenser unit, which is the large box located on the side of the home designed to remove the heat from the gas used in the cooling system.
- Remove the cover grille to clean any debris from the unit’s interior. A garden hose can be helpful for this task.
- The condenser box contains coils of pipe surrounded by thousands of thin metal “fins” that allow the coils more surface area to exchange heat. These fins and coil need to be kept clean in order for the unit to work at peak efficiency. This can be done with a garden hose using low pressure. Using high pressure or a pressure washer could damage the fins so be careful.
- Make sure the exterior unit is as level as possible and secured so as not to vibrate or rock which can damage the cooling lines.
- The larger of the two copper lines going into the home should be covered with an insulating material similar to the foam insulating tubes used to cover water pipes. If the insulation is missing, worn or damaged, it should be replaced.
- There are two schools of thought regarding covering the unit for the winter. I suggest you talk to your HVAC technician and follow their advice, whatever it is.
- In the fall when you turn on the furnace, you should turn off the power to AC unit at the electrical panel so it cannot be turned on by accident in the middle of winter which could damage the unit.
- Do not turn on the unit until the temperature has been above 18 C for at least three days or damage to the compressor may occur.
- The cooling coil in a central air system is in the main ductwork just above the furnace. It should be cleaned by a licensed HVAC technician and is not something the homeowner should attempt to do. But homeowners should regularly clean or replace, depending on the manufacturer’s instructions, the air filter that slides into the main ductwork near the inside fan unit on the cold air return side (input side) of the furnace. The air filter helps to remove pollen, dust and other particles. Air filters are typically rectangular in shape and about 50 centimetres by 40 centimetres or larger. A dirty air filter will reduce air quality and will strain the motor to work harder to move air through it, increasing energy costs and reducing energy efficiency. You may need to change the filter more often if home occupants have respiratory problems, you have pets with fur or dusty conditions are present. On most central air systems this is the furnace filter unless it is a standalone system just for cooling.
An important safety note is that you should only perform maintenance on your system with the power to the A/C unit turned off.
We should also do the following to keep your central air systems running properly:
- Increase the home’s energy efficiency by adding insulation in the attic and ensuring it’s properly ventilated. Windows and doors should be weather stripped to ensure they seal properly.
- If you have a programmable thermostat, increase the desired temperature during the day and lower it at night.
- If the furnace is equipped with a humidifier, make sure the water to the unit is turned off and the damper is set to summer position (setting).
Bullets By Rob Parker, Special to Postmedia Network