When the summer heat arrives, a cool habitat is one of the places sought after for relief. Most of the time, that habitat is our home where we can relax, sip on a cold beverage and enjoy the cool air blowing through the house – from the air conditioner. To ensure your air conditioner will continue to function properly, especially when you need it most, seasonal maintenance is recommended.
How does the air conditioner work?
The illustration demonstrates the function of a basic heat pump air conditioner. The heat pump air conditioner consists of two units: Condenser/Compressor and Evaporator. The Condenser/Compressor is outdoor unit and is located on the side of the home. This unit contains the compressor, condenser, refrigerant, and fan. The Evaporator is inside the home, near the air handler. Let the cooling begin!
A gaseous refrigerant is compressed by the compressor and as the gas runs through the condenser, heat is removed from the gas by the fan. The fan pulls outside air across the condenser coils removing the heat from the gas, which condenses to a warm, high pressure liquid. The liquid refrigerant is then sent inside the house to the indoor unit where an expansion device reduces pressure on the liquid. This process cools down the liquid. The liquid flows through the evaporator coils, which absorbs the heat from the air flowing through the plenum. Voila! relief from the heat.
Keep it Humming
These do-it-yourself tips performed at the beginning of spring and the end of summer can save money and can aide in a smooth running air conditioner for a good length of time.
Step 1 – Shut off the power
– The power is usually located outside, near the condenser. Shut-offs varies in type, such as pull out, a pull-down handle or remove a fuse. If the power is not near the unit, turn off the air conditioner power at the main panel circuit breaker.
Step 2 – Clean the Outside Unit
– Remove any leaves, spider webs, overgrown foliage. Overgrown foliage prevents airflow.
– Remove the cover grille and use a water hose to clean the inside. Avoid directly spraying the fan
– Avoid bending the metal fins. If bent, straighten with a fin comb tool.
– Clean the evaporator coil and condenser coil.
Step 3 – Inspect the Condensate Drain Line
– Inspect the drain line for obstructions, such as algae and debris.
– Pour 1 cup of white vinegar down the drain line to prevent algae growth.
– Make sure the hoses are secured and fit properly.
Step 4 – Clean or Replace the Air Filter
– Turn off the power to the furnace.
– Remove and clean the reusable air filter or replace the disposal air filter. The filter should be periodically washed or replaced, depending on the manufacturer’s instructions. If you use your air conditioner heavily during the hot months, consider replacing or cleaning the filter monthly.
When to Call a Professional
These simple steps to maintaining a smooth running air conditioner will save you money in the long run, however, an annual check by a professional should also be considered. Schedule time with a professional to:
– Check the refrigerant/coolant level
– Oil the condenser motor
– Test the frost board
– Reduce stress on the air conditioning system by enhancing your home’s energy efficiency. Switch from incandescent lights to compact fluorescents, for instance, which produce less heat.
Understanding how your air conditioner works to cool you home is essential to knowing how to keep it running properly. Simple maintenance, coupled with necessary professional care will keep you cool for summers to come.
Enjoy the breeze!