Preparing Your Air Conditioner for the Cooling Season: A Guide to Optimize Performance

As the summer months approach, it's essential to make sure your air conditioner is in top shape to guarantee optimal performance. The most important maintenance task that will ensure the efficiency of your air conditioner is to replace or clean the filters on a regular basis. Dirty, clogged filters reduce the amount of air flow and significantly reduce system efficiency. Maintaining your air conditioner not only saves money on energy, but it also extends its life, saving money on expensive early replacements. Dr.

Kirby, leader of the state's Consumer Family Science program and professor at North Carolina State University, emphasizes the importance of maintaining your air conditioning unit. Not only does it help with energy efficiency and comfort, but it also helps with overall occupant health and the overall operation of the unit. A properly functioning air conditioner removes excess moisture from the air and keeps occupants comfortable. On the other hand, dirty air conditioners or poorly functioning systems can cause microorganisms such as mold to grow, which can aggravate allergies and asthma. If you notice that your air conditioner is not draining properly, you may need to clean the evaporator drain.

First, look for the drain line where it exits the evaporator coil cabinet. The drain is usually a 1-inch PVC pipe (white, gray, or black). Follow it to the end where it drains. Often, the pipe drains to the outside, near the condensing unit, but it can also flow into a utility sink or basement drain or, in the case of attic units, into an outside wall. Hold a rag around the space between the vacuum hose and the drain.

If a bleach solution drains easily, skip this step. If not, use a wet/dry vacuum to suck out any debris that may be blocking the drain. Replace the evaporator coil cover and, if necessary, use aluminum adhesive tape to re-seal it. The filter in your air conditioning system should be changed at least twice a year - once just before the heating season begins and once before the cooling season begins. If you live in a particularly dusty area, you may want to change it more often.

Always replace the filter with a new filter that has the same air flow. Be careful with “air purifying” or HEPA filters as they can dramatically reduce airflow in your system. This can cause the inner coil to freeze due to reduced airflow. While these steps will help keep your air conditioning system in good condition, keep in mind that there are items of maintenance that only a trained HVAC technician will be able to perform. For example, a slow refrigerant leak in your air conditioning system can cause a costly compressor failure, but a homeowner doesn't have the tools or skills needed to check refrigerant levels. In addition, clean ducts and adequate air flow are essential for a well-functioning system, but homeowners lack the equipment needed for the job. The final result? While an expert owner can perform some air conditioner maintenance tasks, it is necessary to have the system checked regularly by an expert technician.

Dr. Kirby suggests a service in the spring before the cooling season and again in the fall before the heating season. You don't need to have your unit checked by an HVAC technician before using it, but you should have your HVAC system professionally serviced at least once a year - which could coincide with the start of summer air conditioning season.

Eladia Valdiviezo
Eladia Valdiviezo

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