Check Your HVAC Before it Checks Out!

Gardening season is in full swing and schools are out for the year.  Outdoor temperatures are climbing and your air conditioning is running… but is it running well?  Just as fall is the ideal time to service your heating system, spring is the ideal time to service your air conditioning system.  Summer is here but it’s not too late. There are things you can do yourself – others should be left to the experts.

Some tips to consider:

  • Make sure the condensing unit located outside is not covered up.  This unit needs to draw air into the system in order to have something to cool and blow out inside, but the process will be hindered if it cannot pull enough air from the outside.  Clean obvious obstructions such as newspaper, leaves, etc. from around the exterior of the unit.  A thoroughly cleaned air conditioning unit will operate at top efficiency.  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 components.  You should contact a licensed HVAC professional.
  • Change the filters regularly.  Dirty filters restrict airflow, reducing 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 the screws in place and 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!

There are two main reasons to schedule annual air conditioner maintenance with your local HVAC contractor: saving money and saving money.  By scheduling regular check ups, you greatly increase the chances that your A/C technician will catch small problems before they become big ones.  Repairing a small refrigerant leak shouldn’t cost much more than the service call.  Buying a new compressor when low refrigerant levels burn your current one out, however, can cost a thousand dollars or more.  The other way an annual check up saves you money is by ensuring that your A/C unit is working at optimal efficiency.  When your A/C is running well it uses less energy to cool your house, and lower energy use means bigger savings for you on your monthly utility bills.

A typical maintenance check-up should include a check of the thermostat settings to ensure the cooling system keeps you comfortable when you are home and saves energy while you are away.  The HVAC technician will tighten all electrical connections and measure voltage and current on motors. Faulty electrical connections can cause unsafe operation of your system and reduce the life of major components.  He/she will lubricate all moving parts.  Parts that lack lubrication cause friction in motors and increases the amount of electricity you use.  A check of the condensate drain in your central air conditioner, furnace and/or heat pump (when in cooling mode) will help prevent a plugged drain, which can cause water damage in the house and affect indoor humidity levels.  The technician will check system controls to ensure proper and safe operation and make sure the equipment starts, operates, and shuts off properly.  The evaporator and condenser air conditioning coils will be cleaned.  Dirty coils reduce the system’s ability to cool your home and cause the system to run longer, increasing energy costs and reducing the life of the equipment.  Refrigerant level will be checked and adjusted if necessary. Too much or too little refrigerant will make your system less efficient increasing energy costs and reducing the life of the equipment.  The blower components will be checked to provide proper system airflow for greater comfort levels.  Airflow problems can reduce your system’s efficiency significantly.

A little attention from you and your HVAC professional will ensure your air conditioning unit will provide a cool and comfortable home for your and your family this summer.

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