Written by Channing Spano
Since ancient Egypt, humans have tried to cool their homes to create a more comfortable environment for their family and friends. For those of us living in South West Florida’s subtropical climate, keeping the home cool is an absolute necessity. All it takes is one day without a working air conditioner to make us thankful for Willis Carrier’s ingenious invention. Your AC is heavily relied on so here are a few things you can do to keep it running at its most efficient level.
First, keep your system maintained. “Most manufactures warranties require regular service to ensure the manufacturer will honor the warranty when there is an issue,” says Dustin Harris of Bruno Air in Bonita Springs, FL. Your AC should get a checkup every 6 months since it’s one of the hardest working systems in your home. On average your AC runs about 3000 hours per year. “That’s equivalent to putting 100,000 miles on your car in a year. Regular maintenance ensures all the components in the unit are running well, and keeps large and expensive issues at bay. It also prolongs the life of the unit and contributes to the overall health of the air in the home.” Harris says.
Maintenance should always be preformed by a licensed contractor since manufactures won’t cover parts needed or labor done by someone without a license. Most air conditioning companies will have their license number listed on their website but if it’s not, call and ask the company to give that number to you. Also check the Better Business Bureau in your area to make sure there aren’t any complaints against a company. You can find a company’s license number there as well.
When shopping for a filter it’s important to know which one will fit your particular unit. The most common is a 1” pleated filters and these are easily found at local hardware stores. These 1” filters should be changed every 2-3 months to ensure your system is still “breathing” correctly. For people with allergies, a 5” filter is the best option. When choosing an AC for your home, make sure you let your builder, remodeler, or AC company know you have allergies so they can make sure the system they are installing has a grill that will accommodate a 5” filter. A licensed professional can retrofit units that have been installed but don’t have a grill that fits a large filter. Unlike 1” filters that need to be changed multiple times per year, a 5” filter can last between 6 – 12 months depending on your allergy sensitivities and the amount of pets and people living in the home.
While professional maintenance is a must, there are other steps you can take that impact your AC in a huge way. Making sure the filters in your unit are clean and changing them on a regular basis will have a huge impact on your system. Old and dirty filters limit air intake, which causes the air conditioner to freeze and shutdown. Mold, skin cells, dirt, outside contaminants, as well as pet and human hair are all trapped in the unit’s filter. If not changed regularly, those trapped particles can become dislodged and wind up back in the air in your home.
Another step you can take to keep your system running efficiently is cleaning the coils on your outside unit. “You can visually check these coils. If the unit outside looks dirty, it means the coils are dirty and that will cause your system to slow down,” says Harris. “You don’t want to push the dirt further into the system so make sure you’re spraying the water through the opening at the top of the unit so it forces the dirt out.” Cleaning the outside unit for 10 -15 minutes every 6 months will ensure you are getting the best for your AC.
Once a technician arrives, here are a few key things they should be looking at:
1. Make sure they are inspecting the drain lines. Mold, dirt and slime can accumulate in these lines causing your system to backup and water to overflow back into your AC unit. It can also leak onto your floors and even damage drywall.
2. The temperature different between the incoming and outgoing air always needs to be checked. This helps catch and prevent major problems from occurring. If the temperature difference isn’t correct, it will clue the technician into issues your system might be having, and the necessary repairs can be made before problems get out of hand.
3. Motors and electrical parts need to be inspected with every maintenance appointment. If your motors are “over amping”, your electrical components aren’t preforming to manufacturer standards. This can cause major and costly issues.