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Common questions and answers about a variety of heating and cooling systems and issues.

Air Conditioner Maintenance: How to Keep Your A/C Working Efficiently

How to maintain your air conditioning system to extend its lifespan and keep it running efficiently.

What is the lifespan of an air conditioner?

According to  a central air conditioner’s typical lifespan is about 15-20 years. However how you care for your unit will determine its life expectancy as well as the efficiency it maintains. Like most things the more TLC given typically the longer it should live. Make sure you are educated by your installer on your particular model to make sure you get the most out of your investment.

Hot, Fan, Broken AC, Maintenance

Factors that affect the lifespan of your central air conditioner:

  • correct size (bigger is not always better!)
  • use
  • year round climate – harsh winters and the unit being buried in snow, frequent freezing and thawing, can lead to some minimal additional wear over time
  • whether it was well maintained

Central A/C Maintenance

Prior to opening your air conditioner for the season it’s important to schedule a tune up with a certified HVAC technician.  The technician will be able to examine your unit and verify that all parts are in working order and that no damage has been sustained over the winter season.  Any issues can be identified and repaired prior to the start of the season.

Regular maintenance allows you to be proactive in extending the lifespan of your air conditioner.

How can I extend the lifespan of my air conditioner?

The best thing you can do to increase your central air conditioner’s useful lifetime is take good care of it with regular maintenance and cleaning. Start each summer air conditioner season by implementing these A/C annual maintenance tips.

Did you know for a packaged central air unit there are two main components? There is the outside unit (the unit most people think of when think of their A/C) usually on a slab or in a bracket at the side of your house. There is also the indoor component or the blower. The indoor component is attached to your furnace but although the furnace is not running to heat your home it is the element that blows the cold air from the outdoor unit through your house.

Keeping up with the maintenance of both the indoor AND outdoor air conditioner components will help your unit live a long and healthy life. For best results, do these annually at the start of the season each year.

Let’s examine the Top 7 Tips for Maintaining Your Central Air Conditioner, below.

Outside unit maintenance

The top 3 things you can do to keep your air conditioner running efficiently:

1) Keep that part of the yard maintained

This includes mowing the lawn or taking care of your garden. When there is overgrowth you can end up with problems. Tall grass, untrimmed hedges, vines and other tall obstacles may cause the outdoor component to overheat, rust out, have wildlife live in it, and leave unwanted debris.  Remember to remove brush and fallen branches, throw out any garbage and dispose of unwanted material in the area. Leaving a 1.5-2′ space between the unit and other objects and keep up to 4′ above the unit clear. This is important for air circulation.

2) Clean with a garden hose

A simple task at the beginning and end of the central air season is to do a quick rinse off with your garden hose. Wash off any dust and dirt that got stuck on the unit and prevent it from going into the unit and clogging up other components. However do not pressure wash as it is too strong and you may bend a fin.

3) Use a condenser coil cleaner

Be very careful with these cleaners and follow the directions carefully. It is very important you label this cleaner and know it is for the outdoor coils only. This cleaner cannot be used for the indoor coils as the fumes are very harmful and the chemical needs to be rinsed off with water. Using this cleaner however is an amazing way to keep your outdoor unit in working order.

Inside unit maintenance

The indoor component of the air conditioner system is the furnace blower, which circulates the cold air throughout your home. The furnace blower should be looked at the beginning of summer season as well as the winter season.

The top 4 things you can do to keep your air conditioner running efficiently:

1) Change your air filter

The air filter needs to be cleaned either the beginning or end of each season that the furnace blower will be in use (Summer and Winter). This is one of the easiest ways to maintain your unit for it to work for a long time.

If you have pets you may want to check your filters more often as the hair and dander will add to the problem. A clogged filter can cause damage in a variety of ways however once fixed it will keep your central air working effectively as well as in its most efficient state. If you do not wish to replace your filter frequently use a good vacuum and clean the fibers regularly.

2) Empty the drain pan

The drain pans that are not taken care of will begin to rust and potentially warp. Trapped moisture can mean that dust and debris as well as bugs can get caught in the system. This dirty water may allow algae to grow and clog other parts of your central air system.

3) Clean the evaporator coils

This involves a different cleaner than the outdoor condenser coils. It is easiest to clean the evaporator coils when it is hot out and the A/C will be running. There is a spray on cleaner you can purchase from your local hardware store that is easy to use. If the air conditioner is running it will rinse off itself from the condensation.

4) Clear area around heat vents

Heat vents and cold air return is not just for the winter when your furnace is on. They are what allows air to recirculate throughout your home keeping it cool and comfortable. Make sure you do a walk through and check that you have adequate space around your registers so you get the best circulation possible.

For troubleshooting tips on getting a malfunctioning A/C working again, check out our HVAC FAQ page. And remember never touch anything you feel uncomfortable with or are unsure of. Some problems are easy to fix while others are more complex and you do not wish to damage your unit or turn a small issue into a big one!

Is anything missing from this article?  Do you have a question you’d like us to answer? Let us know in the comments!

Air Conditioner Maintenance: How to Keep Your A/C Working Efficiently2017-08-08T17:41:14-04:00
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