Centrally placed air conditioners are vital, mainly in Southern summers where electronic fans usually can’t fight the scorching heat to any real effect. In order to run perfectly throughout the season, an AC requires regular cleaning and maintenance. While we recommend using a licensed cooling and heating professional to take care of maintaining your air conditioner, it’s important to be aware of what goes into maintaining your air conditioner in the event that you need to take care of your home unit yourself!
This is why every individual should be aware of the way these air conditioners operate and what are the specific components or parts that require frequent repair and maintenance.
How Does an Air Conditioner Work?
Air conditioners have three separate components. They are an evaporator, a condenser, and a compressor. The condenser and compressor are placed outside the house on a tangible slab while the evaporator is attached to the walls of your room.
Focus on the positioning of the main components. First, the compressor placed outside the house takes the hot gas from the room where it compresses the molecules, which increase its energy. Because of the small surface area and faster-moving gas particles, it turns into a hot gas. From there, this high-temperature gas reaches the condenser where it gets condensed and turns into low-temperature or cool liquid.
The cool liquid is transferred to the evaporator inside the house, and it turns it into gas molecules without modifying its temperature. This way low-temperature or cool air is released from the air conditioner and keeps your home nice and comfy.
This procedure looks easy, but apart from the three components explained above, there are side parts that make up these components and support them to reach the accurate end product.
Other parts include:
- Evaporator Coils
- Evaporator drain
- Blower filter
Steps for Maintaining Your Air Conditioner
1. Turn Off the Main Switch
The risk of getting an electric shock is higher with these electronic devices, so remember to turn off the main switch placed near the compressor/condenser that is outdoors. Don’t confuse it with the switch in the breaker box placed near the evaporator indoor.
Cleaning Of Outside Unit: Compressor and Condenser
2. Equipment required to dismantle the outdoor unit:
- Rachet set
- Mallet (optional)
3. Detach the Debris from the Top Lid
The air conditioner works by removing the warm air inside the house, which is then compressed and condensed outside and the cool air is sent inside. But during this procedure, the hot air gets trapped inside the unit because the fan is covered with dust.
So, it’s important to remove the fan lid that is covering the outside unit and clean and scrub out all the dust particles. Plus, if any tree truck or leaves are covering up the open space lid, then it is essential to cut-off all such barriers. Otherwise sooner or later your air conditioner would give off warm air indoors. It is not something you want.
4. Vacuum the Fins
If you’ve got a garden hose, then set it up on low pressure, so there is no bending while cleaning the fins. Next step is to target the fins with spraying water in an outer direction, so all the debris (dirt) can peel off easily and not hurt the single string attached to the fin sheet. Note that the spray would leave some dirt on the fins which you would have to scrub out with a mini single layer brush.
If you want to ensure that the fin looks impeccable, use a vacuum on moderate speed and run it through all four fin sheets while keeping the direction outwards.
In case you don’t have a vacuum or a garden hose, then it might be good for you to buy a “fin cleaning spray” which is available on every commercial and E-commerce store. Plus, according to recent sales stats pertaining to these sprays, almost 73% of the population used it and gave it a 4.5-star rating. Just don’t forget to check the review of the cleaning spray before making your ultimate decision.
5. Straighten the Bending Fins
If the fin present in the outer unit is bent due to any reason, it can block the air from passing through and thus act as a barrier for the air conditioner. The AC will not be able to perform its task.
After the cleaning is done, it’s important to straighten the fin with a sharp object and ensure that equal gaps are maintained between all the fins. This way the air can easily pass through the compressor to the evaporator and vice versa. This will help ensure smooth operations.
6. Is the Area Around the Unit Dirt-Free?
After you’re done with all the cleaning take a moment and focus on the external factors that are affecting the cleanliness of the outer unit. Assemble the unit and keep it in its place, inspect the fan lid to see if there is any tree branch hanging over it or fungus that can potentially block the air. If that’s the case, then it is the time for you to cut off that nuisance because it can hurt the performance of your air conditioner.
In winters the air conditioners are not in use. It’s better to cover them up with any polyethylene sheet or plastic bag to prevent it from getting dirty. But remember not to cover it fully since it would cause moisture to build up inside the unit which can result in high corrosion and insect nests. These can be big nuisances.
Plus, the best part is that you won’t have to spend hours on cleaning the outside unit when the summer season arrives.
7. Maintain the Level of the Unit
Equipment required: Pruning shears or hedge shears or a pruning saw. You can choose any one of the three depending on the branch size.
We know it’s surprising, but the performance of the compressor depends on the level of the unit. So, it’s compulsory to check the level of the unit as it can change when the soil starts to gather beneath the stand which holds the unit in place.
To solve this problem, you should use composited rot-resistant shims, as these would help maintain an equal standing level for the condenser to stand on which, in turn, would keep the compressor working fine for the longest time possible.
An expert listed some exception as for people who use a heat pump system. It might be possible that your unit is slightly sloped as compared to the actual level of your house as the unit defrosts the surface beneath the pad in low temperature or mainly in winters. Remember to have a look at your outdoor air conditioner component once, after the end of every winter season and level up the unit if needed. Don’t pass over this aspect of maintaining your air conditioner!
Indoor Unit Cleaning: Evaporator
Evaporator for the air conditioner is placed directly above the furnace and in the plenum. At times, it’s hard to reach the evaporator, but if you’re tall, then it is no biggie for you to access the evaporator, and repair it.
For people who cannot access it every month, they should repair it at the beginning of every season, which means four times a year to make sure the unit is operating well.
But before you jump into the process, check if your plenum frontal is wrapped with aluminum foil or a metal box. Keep in mind that any individual can repair the foil plenum; however, if you have the metal box plenum, then don’t even think about touching it. You should instead call an expert who can clean the evaporator for you. This is the best course of action.
Equipment You Will Need to Clean the Evaporator:
- Mini screwdriver
- Hand mirror
- Stiff brush
- Household bleach
Steps to Clean the Evaporator with an Aluminum Foil Plenum
First step: Remove the foil in front of the plenum. Usually, this foil is taped, so you have to be very careful when removing the tape as the same tape has to be used again to cover the front of the plenum after cleaning.
Second step: Look for a plate inside the plenum after you have removed the tape. When you find it, you’ll see that it is attached with screws. So, you should have a mini screwdriver to remove the screw from the cover of the plate and thus access the inner equipment.
Third step: Removing the plate gives direct access into the evaporator. Now take a still brush and start scrubbing off any debris (dirt) on the evaporator coil and then spray the coil with a coil-cleaner spray, which is easily available in any commercial store.
Plus, if you cannot see properly into the indoor unit, then you should take a hand mirror which can enhance the reflection. Additionally, if your hand can’t reach the end of the indoor unit, you can tilt the evaporator to the extent that pipes attached to the unit don’t bend.
Fourth step: Take out the tray beneath the evaporator unit. Next, take one tablespoon of bleach and pour it into the weep hole on the tray to prevent any fungus growth on the tray. Now put the tray back into its original place and close the plate with screws. Lastly, re-tape the foil in front of the plenum.
Equipment to clean draining pipe:
- Garden hose
- Vacuum cleaner
- Wet cloth
9. Cleaning the Drainage Pipe of the Evaporator
It is important to clean the drainage pipe, so the warm, humid air is absorbed from the indoor and passed along the cool evaporator coil, which turns the warm air into cool air, and the remaining molecules are converted into a liquid, which drips on the tray below the evaporator. After that the fluid collected on the tray is drained through the pipe attached to the evaporator which usually leads to the basement.
The fluid that stays on the floor for hours can contain biological matter, and the same infected fluid flows through the drainage pipe. It can contaminate the pipe too. So, it is important to locate this pipe and clean it with moderate pressure garden hose and then vacuum it so that it can dry faster.
It is vital to clean these pipes because they keep your air conditioner clean. Keep in mind that if contaminated water keeps draining, it will cause infections that arise from dirty water, such as malaria, and dengue, etc. and no sensible person would want that.
So buckle up before it’s too late and start looking for the draining pipes inside and outside of your house as it is very vital.
Replacement of the Blower Filter
If you live in a dusty area, it will be great to change the filters twice a year to maintain your heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system. Change the filter before the two seasons, i.e., summer and winters.
The reason it is important to change the filters is that constant airflow through the evaporator keeps the coil in a perfect condition and you would like to keep it that way. But, if the filters are filled with dust, it will block ventilation which will, in the end, cause the evaporator’s coil to freeze.
Turn on the Main Switch
Once you’re done following all these steps involved in maintaining your air conditioner, it’s time to turn the main switches on again.
According to a recent survey, 80% of the people felt like they recently bought their air conditioner after they cleaned it; the cooling was just perfect. The rest of the 20% assured that it got a lot better than it was before. Both ways, it makes a difference, and that’s all we want at the end of the day. Your need for cool air in hot times and climates is why maintaining your air conditioner is important and not something to forget about.
If you think you won’t be able to follow all the steps, then you should probably hire an expert in this field and get it repaired by them. Moreover, it would be beneficial to start the cleaning and scrubbing before the summer arrives to keep yourself nice and cool. Additionally, regardless of whether or not you hire a professional or do it yourself, maintaining your air conditioner is one way to keep your energy costs down.
If your air conditioning unit is broken and you believe it should be covered under your home insurance policy, contact us at Bulldog Adjusters for a free inspection!