Proper air conditioning maintenance often requires professional labor and technical know-how, but there are many steps you can take yourself on a regular basis to keep your system running smoothly. These steps can help keep your air clean, reduce allergens and dust, avoid any water damage, and help prevent physical damage to important components.
Replace Your Filter
Your filter is one of the most important parts of your air conditioner system. While primarily designed to protect your system from debris, it can also improve the quality of the air coming into your house. It's easy to let a filter go unchanged, especially if you're in the middle of a season where using your HVAC system isn't often necessary, but it's still important to do at least a few times a year.
How often you do this depends on a few factors, like if you have pets, how often you use your air conditioner and the type of filter you're using. More expensive filters may not need to be replaced as often. Keep some extra filters on hand or set up a recurring delivery so you don't forget. If you aren't sure what size you need, look for measurements on the filter itself; if you can't find it there, measure the width, height, and depth.
Clean Your Vents
While your air filter should keep most of the dirt and debris in your home out of your ducts, you may start to notice your vents getting a little dirty, especially if they aren't usually cleaned as part of regular maintenance. Keeping your vents clean is important for the same reason as replacing your filter: it can help improve your air quality and help you avoid having dust and allergens blown into every room in your house.
A simple way to do this is to wipe down your vents with a microfiber cloth to clear away the dust. But if you want to be a little more thorough, remove each vent and clean both sides, then use a vacuum to suck up any dust bunnies or debris from the area behind the vent before you put it back on. It's important to remove the vents if you want to use something like water or soap, as trying to do this while your vents are still on your wall or ceiling could just spread dirt around.
Unclog Condensate Drain
As your air conditioner runs, it pulls moisture out of the air. This moisture has to go somewhere and is typically safely drained outside via a condensate drain. If this drain clogs for any reason, however, your air conditioner may turn itself off automatically to prevent water damage, leaving you with an inoperable air conditioner.
The first step is to check your condensate drain pan at least once a year. Your manual should tell you where this is located if you aren't sure. If it's dry, or if there's no standing water, your drain is probably in good shape. You can test it by pouring a little water into it and seeing how quickly it drains. If there's a problem you can clear clogs using either a chemical mixture or a wet/dry vacuum to suck out any blockage. A functioning condensate drain is vital to the functionality of your air conditioner, so be sure to add this to your list of regular maintenance.
Clear Out Condenser
The condenser part of your air conditioner is designed to withstand the elements, but it still needs to be cleaned every once in a while. Dirt and debris can work its way in over time, plants can grow nearby, and dirty parts won't function as efficiently as they should. Here are a few things you can do.
- Shut off power to the air conditioner via your circuit breaker panel to prevent any risk of injury, then remove the top from the condenser. Once you have access to the inside, clear away any twigs, dirt clods, or anything else that shouldn't be there.
- Use a hose to rinse the condenser down. You can do this to safely wash away dust and dirt, but don't use a high-pressure jet of water; use a soft spray nozzle instead. Too much pressure can push parts off balance.
- Use a fin straightener tool to fix any fins that might be bent. Some may be too bent to fix, so don't force anything that doesn't move easily. Realigning fins results in better airflow and helps your air conditioner function better.
- Clear away any plants, leaves, or weeds that may be growing nearby.