|Q: How can I clean and do routine
maintenance on my air conditioning unit?
A: Heating and
air conditioning companies often offer maintenance servicing for both air
conditioning units and furnaces.
"We recommend annual air conditioning check-ups in
the spring and furnace check-ups every fall. Although regular checkups will
not absolutely guarantee that a unit will continue to work perfectly
throughout the season, they will reveal most small problems that can lead to
major, far more expensive problems if left unattended."
Homeowners can do the following things to
maintain their air conditioning units:
- The first thing to check before turning on your
unit is to make sure the condensing unit located outside is not covered
up. The unit needs to draw air into the system in order to have something
to cool and circulate inside, but the process is hindered if it cannot
pull in enough outside air. (We're amazed how many homeowners call because
their air conditioner isn't cooling, only to find they forgot they had
temporarily stacked lawn furniture, bags of leaves and lawn clippings,
around their unit over the winter.)
- Some people intentionally cover their condenser
to protect it from the elements during the winter, although these units
require no protection since they are designed for outdoor installation.
- Run your air conditioner for a few minutes in
late spring or early summer, before you need it. If you wait until the
first hot day to discover it isn't working, you'll find yourself on a
waiting list, sweltering for days before an air conditioning specialist
can come to fix it.
- Change the filters regularly. Dirty filters
restrict air flow, reduce efficiency and worse case, can cause the
evaporator to ice up. Disposable fiberglass filters should be replaced.
Electrostatic or electronic filters need to be washed regularly.
- Be sure all access panels are secure, with all
the screws in place. Clean obvious obstructions such as newspaper and
leaves from around the exterior of the unit.
- Be sure the thermostat is set in the cooling
mode. Just setting the dial below room temperature will not activate the
air conditioning if it is set in the heat mode.
- A thoroughly cleaned air conditioning unit will
operate at top efficiency. However, homeowners are strongly discouraged
from using a hose and water to try to clean it themselves because of the
very serious risk of electrical shock and possible shorting of electrical
The steps of a professional furnace check-up.
- Inspect thermostat for proper operation.
- Inspect filter, and change or clean as needed.
- Check all electrical components and controls.
- Oil motors as needed.
- Inspect heat exchanger for possible cracks. A
crack in the heat exchanger will introduce carbon monoxide into the living
- Check air flow. If diminished, it may be
necessary to clean the evaporator coil.
- Check air fuel mixture, where appropriate.