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10 Simple Steps to Maintain a Smooth Air-Conditioning Unit

Regular maintenance and cleaning can save you money and prolong your HVAC unit's life. Poorly functioning or dirty air conditioners can lead to mold growth and other health problems such as asthma and allergy. Your Heating, Ventilating, And Air-Conditioning system will either include an AC furnace or heat pump which heats and cools. Both types have an interior unit, which is an evaporator or blower, and an exterior unit which is a condenser coil (or compressor). The instructions that we are sharing with you in this blog can be used for whole-home heat pumps or air conditioning units.

  1. Turn the Power Off

It is important to turn off all power to the unit. This is because of the dangers associated with working with electricity and moving parts. On the exterior condenser/compressor, look for an exterior shut-off box near the unit. You should also turn off the power at the breaker box.

2. Take Out All Debris

On the exterior condenser/compressor, remove the fan cage. Use a wrench or a screwdriver to remove the fasteners and lift the fan grill or cage from the top. Clean the interior of the unit by hand or using a vacuum cleaner.

  1. MakeSure to Clean Fins

To remove any dirt or debris from the outside, take off the outer covers. Next, spray the fins with a gentle stream of water from a garden hose. This will remove any dirt, debris, or buildup between them. The pressure washer can cause damage to the fins, so don't use it.

Use a commercially-available fin cleaning spray if your fins are very dirty. To do so, follow the manufacturer's instructions.

  1. Straighten the Fins and Clean the Area

Any reduction in airflow through the fins could reduce efficiency. Use a butter knife to straighten bent fins or a commercially available fin-straightening device. You should be gentle to ensure that the tubing within the fins does not become damaged.

  1. Clean the Area Around Your Unit

After you have finished cleaning, remove the fan cage. To ensure airflow, remove all leaves and debris from the condenser. To prevent debris from getting inside, cover the condenser's top with plywood or plastic during the winter months. You should not cover the entire unit. Moisture can build up and cause corrosion. A fully covered unit can encourage vermin to create nests within. When the unit is in use, remove any cover.

  1. Level The Unit 

As the soil settles below the pad, it can tip over. A poorly-placed condenser can lead to premature compressor failure. Make sure the condenser unit is level and then use rot-resistant tools to get it back to normal.

  1. Clean the Evaporator Coil

It's now time to go inside. Locate the evaporator coil doors on the inside blower/furnace. In some instances, you may need to remove some foil duct tape and a few bolts. Inside, use a soft brush to dust off the coil, then spray the coil with commercially-available, no-rinse coil cleaner (available at home improvement stores). The spray will foam and then drip into your drain pan. Use hot water, soap, and some bleach to clean the drain pan. Pour a cup of 50/50 bleach/water down the drain. Place a drain pan tablet that is commercially available in the pan to keep it clear for longer. This will prevent future algae growth.

If the bleach solution drains easily skip to the next step. If the bleach solution drains easily, skip to the next step -- Cleaning the Evaporator Drain. If necessary, replace the door to the evaporator coil and seal it with foil duct tape.

  1. Clean the Evaporator Drain

The interior evaporator coil blows warm, humid air through it. The cold coil absorbs heat and cools the air before it is circulated inside your home. The humidity in the air condenses onto the cool surface of an evaporator coil and becomes liquid water. This water drips into a pan below. The water is drained into a drain tube, which is usually buried in a basement floor drain or outside utility sink.

Algae and mold build up over time and can cause a drain to stop flowing or become very slow. If the drain is plugged, it can cause flooding on the floor, or the system will stop cooling to prevent flooding.

Locate the drain line at the end of the evaporator coil enclosure. A 1-inch PVC pipe is used to drain the evaporator coil enclosure. It can be either white, gray, or black. It will drain to the end. The line will drain outside of the condenser unit. However, it may drain into a basement floor drain, utility sink, or down an exterior wall in the case of attic units.

Once you have located the drain, use a dry/wet vacuum to clean it. To avoid damaging the filter, it is best to remove the paper filter from your wet/dry vacuum. The drain line should be held in place by holding the wet/dry vacuum hose to it. Tape a rag to cover the gap. Turn the vacuum on for about 2 minutes, then turn it off. This will remove any biological matter that is growing from the vacuum.

  1. Change the Blower Filter

Your HVAC system's filter should be replaced at least twice per year. One before the heating season starts and one before the cooling season starts. You may need to replace the filter more frequently if you live in an area with high dust content. You should always replace your filter with one that has the same airflow rating.

Find the location of the filter enclosure on your indoor furnace/AC, where the large fresh-air return duct enters. To open the filter enclosure's door, you may need to use a screwdriver. The old filter should be removed and the new one installed. Close the door and lock it.

  1. Turn the Power On

These steps will keep your AC system in good shape. However, a qualified HVAC technician can perform certain maintenance tasks. A slow refrigerant leak can cause costly compressor failure. However, homeowners don't have the skills or tools to test refrigerant levels. A well-functioning system requires clean ducts as well as proper airflow. However, homeowners don't have the right equipment. 

Although some AC maintenance can easily be performed by the homeowner, an expert technician should still inspect the system regularly. To make sure that your HVAC system is working efficiently, feel free to call our team of experts at Ingersoll's Air Conditioning and Heating Inc. at 251-928-9392 to arrange your routine maintenance.

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