10 March 2018 Posted By : Edited by Peter Tremblay

5 Things You Need to Know About Air Conditioner Maintenance in Warm Climates

In warm climates, air conditioning is a practical necessity. It’s nearly impossible to run a business without AC and your home is going to be quite uncomfortable without it. Air conditioners can be expensive, but with the proper maintenance, you can keep them running efficiently (and inexpensively), so you can stay cool in even the warmest summer months.

How Air Conditioners Work—and the Toll of Daily Use

To start, it helps to understand the basics of how air conditioners work. There are four basic components to your central air system; the evaporator, the compressor, the condenser, and an expansion device. To start, fans in your home blow hot air across your evaporator coils, which contain a liquid chemical called refrigerant. This refrigerant heats up and evaporates, then moves outside to a compressor. The compressor forces this gas into a state of higher pressure and temperature, then sends it to the condenser, where heat is radiated away outside. An expansion component moderates how refrigerant comes back into the home in its cooled liquid state.

This is a system with several important components, all of which can be affected by environmental conditions. For example, dirty air from your home and air conditioning ductwork can damage internal components, and outdoor debris can make your air conditioner run less efficiently. Using the system every day, without ongoing care, can make it more susceptible to wear and tear, and eventually, total failure.

How to Maintain Your Air Conditioner

So what steps should you take to maintain your air conditioner?

  1. Change the air filter. Changing your air filter is not only one of the most important ways to keep your air conditioner in good shape, it’s also one of the easiest. New filters cost between $10 and $20 and can be swapped out easily—even if you don’t have any technical know-how. The filter’s job is to protect the internal components of your machine by blocking particles of dust and debris that would otherwise jeopardize operations. If a filter isn’t changed regularly, the machine could break down.
  2. Clear out debris. Go outside and check your compressor for any debris. Because it’s outside, leaves, grass, bugs, and other matter can get in the interior of your compressor and interfere with its functionality. Give it a good cleaning and hose it down to prevent this from becoming a problem.
  3. Keep the fins clean and straight. While you’re outside, take a moment to inspect the metal “fins” on the sides of your unit. These fins are designed to make it easier for your compressor and condenser to evaporate heat; if they’re blocked, or if they’re no longer straight, your unit won’t operate as efficiently. Fortunately, two steps can correct this problem: cleaning the fins and straightening them back up.
  4. Clear out the ductwork occasionally. The ductwork of your house has a tendency to accumulate dust, dirt, and other matter—especially over a period of years. While your air filter is designed to catch as much particulate matter as possible, it can’t catch everything—and dirty ductwork can make your entire system run less efficiently. Every few years or so, it’s a good idea to vacuum out and clean all the ducts in your system.
  5. Clean the evaporator coils. Finally, take some time indoors to remove the panels of your central unit and check the evaporator coils. These can accumulate dust, dirt, and debris as well, though not as commonly as some of the other key areas. A can of compressed air and a cloth are all it takes to restore these coils to full, clean working capacity.

If you live in a warm climate, or if you use your air conditioner on a daily or near-daily basis, it’s in your best interest to keep it in good condition. A basic annual tune-up will cost you less than $100 in most areas, or an hour or so of your time, which is far less costly than a major repair or replacing the unit altogether. Like any machine with moving components, it needs care and maintenance to stay in top form.

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