Central air conditioner maintenance is a topic that many homeowners unfortunately ignore until their air conditioner starts having problems. There are several easy tasks you can perform to maximize the lifespan of your unit and avoid paying higher bills due to lost efficiency. Here are three essential central air conditioner maintenance steps.
Clean and Unblock the Condenser
As the only major outdoor component of your central air conditioner, the condenser is the part that is most likely to experience problems. A bit of extra care for the condenser will protect it from the negative effects of its exposure to the elements.
Your condenser has aluminum fins on the sides that dissipate heat. When airflow is blocked around the fins, your system has to work harder to dissipate heat and will run less efficiently. The condenser can suffer from blocked airflow due to a number of different causes. Weeds that grow around the sides of the condenser are some of the most common culprits. Trimming plant life away from the condenser regularly is important to maintain adequate airflow.
Even after you have cleared the weeds away from your condenser, dirt and other debris lodged between the fins can still block airflow. You can try cleaning the fins with a vacuum hose. If this doesn't work, you will need to turn off the power to the unit and remove the top panel to spray out the fins from the inside with a garden hose.
Maintain Indoor Airflow
Some homeowners will close off vent registers in unused rooms in an effort to improve efficiency by only cooling the room(s) they are using. Unfortunately, this can have the opposite effect on a central air conditioning system. Your system is balanced to distribute air evenly to every room in your home. If you close off too many rooms, you force your air conditioner to work harder to deliver the same amount of air, thereby reducing its efficiency. Additionally, the increase in air pressure inside your home's ducts can lead to duct leaks.
Keeping vent registers unblocked is a good way to maintain your central air conditioner's efficiency. Instead of closing registers in unused rooms, you should adjust your thermostat settings until your home stays at a comfortable temperature with all registers open.
In addition to leaving registers open, it is important to make sure that they are not blocked by furniture. Even if a vent is not completely covered, furniture that is too close can disrupt airflow and increase the time it takes for your air conditioner to cool a room properly. This will lead to reduced efficiency by making you run your air conditioner more frequently and for longer periods.
Inspect and Patch Ducts
Duct leaks are a major efficiency problem because you are essentially paying to condition air that doesn't reach any room in your home. You will require the service of an HVAC contractor to detect leaks in ductwork that is hidden behind your walls. However, you can easily inspect the exposed ductwork in your attic, basement, and furnace room for gaps.
While some gaps are large enough to see, you should also hold a burning incense stick near each duct joint while your system is running to detect smaller leaks. To repair gaps in ductwork, you can patch them with metallic foil tape and then insulate your ducts with foil faced fiberglass insulation to further improve efficiency.
Central air conditioner maintenance is not difficult if you know the common causes of efficiency loss. Keep these tips in mind so you can keep your air conditioner running efficiently for years to come. If you discover major problems while doing any maintenance, contact a local air conditioner repair company like Doctor Fix-It.