Did you know that about 20% of US greenhouse gas emissions come from residential energy use? Air conditioners, in turn, are behind a considerable portion of those emissions. After all, AC units require a lot of electricity to run, and in most cases, fossil fuels are the source of that energy.
The thing is, a lack of air conditioner maintenance can further increase an AC unit’s energy use. As a result, your unit’s GHG emissions spike, and so do your energy bills.
That’s enough reason to get a pro to service your air conditioning at least twice a year. Then, you can do some basic tune-ups between those service calls by yourself.
We’ll give you a rundown of easy DIY air conditioner maintenance tips, so be sure to read on.
1. Safety First
Have you ever wondered why water and electricity don’t mix? That’s because water contains electricity-conducting minerals. The same goes for sweat; it contains electrolytes that conduct electricity, too.
Now, keep in mind that you’ll be handling water as you perform air conditioner maintenance. You’ll most likely sweat, too, as cleaning your AC is a form of physical activity.
Thus, failing to cut off the air conditioner’s power supply can put you at risk of electrical injuries.
That’s why it’s imperative to turn the air conditioning unit off before performing any work on it. You can do this by flicking off the AC disconnect switch, which looks like a regular light switch near the unit.
If you can’t find the switch or don’t have one, you can cut the power to the air conditioner via its circuit breaker. It’s a lever that you can find inside your home’s main electrical service panel. You’ll know which one is for the AC as it should have a label.
Once you locate the AC circuit breaker, slide its lever to the off position.
2. Clean the Outdoor Unit
All air conditioners have a part that sits outside, at the mercy of external elements. For example, window AC units have an exterior-facing side. That’s where they dump hot air outdoors.
On the other hand, central and split air systems each have a separate outdoor unit. This metal box houses crucial AC components, such as the compressor and condenser. One of its jobs is to release hot air to the outdoors.
Since it’s outside, though, it’s more prone to collecting dust, debris, and grime. Over time, all that build-up can make your AC unable to expel air outdoors, leading to its poor performance.
Moreover, grime can trigger or contribute to corrosion, especially in electronics.
So, as part of your AC maintenance tasks, regularly sweep away piles of debris off of your outdoor unit. You can also use a vacuum cleaner with a brush attachment to remove dirt and dust build-up. For more stubborn grime, you can use an old toothbrush to clean it with a small amount of soapy water.
3. Remove Vegetation Near the Outdoor Unit
Allowing lawn weeds to run wild can lead to your precious, prized plants getting sick or even dying. After all, they compete for water and nutrients, and because of their height, they tend to win. Plus, they’re quick to germinate, which is why they can spread fast even if you only let them stick around for a few days.
Another good reason to remove weeds is to stop them from crowding by your AC’s outdoor unit. Remember: Any obstruction can impair your air conditioner’s performance. That includes getting covered by weeds (or shrubs).
In any case, be sure all sides of your outdoor AC unit have a clearance of at least two feet.
4. Keep the Air Filter Clean
Were you aware that two-thirds of the dust inside your home originates from outdoors? So, the heavier the pollution in your area, the more dust (and other pollutants) that can get into your home.
If not for the air conditioner filter, many of those contaminants will settle in and on your AC. If that were the case, your air conditioner would have a hard time blowing cooled air into your home.
However, it’s also because of its role that, over time, the filter gets clogged with particles. If you don’t address that right away, it can reduce your AC’s airflow.
That’s enough reason to ensure your AC has a clean filter at all times. If your filter is disposable, replace it with a fresh one, but if it’s washable, give it a deep clean. What’s important is to ensure that it’s clear so that air can pass freely.
5. Vacuum the Air Vents
HVAC vents are the openings connected to your cooling (and heating) system. They include registers, which bring conditioned air into a space. There are also return vents that carry air back into the system for conditioning.
Since AC vents always have air passing through them, dust and debris can also form on their covers. Over time, the build-up can get thick enough to restrict the airflow.
With that said, a crucial HVAC maintenance advice to abide by is to keep the vents clean and clear. You can do that by using a vacuum cleaner to suck the thick layers of sneeze-inducing dust on them. You can also finish things up using disinfectant wipes on the vent cover slats.
6. Unclog the AC Drain Tube
According to Lex Air Conditioning and Heating, AC drain tubes can also develop clogs. Common culprits include dirt, microbiological growths (such as algae and molds), or ice.
One of the reasons AC drainage tubes are prone to blockages is that they’re constantly damp. Their primary role, after all, is to remove condensation. That’s the moisture generated by the AC evaporator coil as it cools the air.
Moisture, in turn, can turn dirt and dust into a sticky, congealed mess. Moreover, it’s one of the factors enabling molds to survive and thrive. Under the right conditions, molds can even grow and replicate in as little as 24 to 48 hours.
In any case, it’s a must to prevent AC drain tube clogging as it can cause water damage in your home. So, cleaning this with a shop vacuum should be part of your routine AC maintenance. You can also pour distilled vinegar or bleach into the drain hole to flush any remaining debris.
Follow These Air Conditioner Maintenance Tips
As you can see, there are plenty of air conditioner maintenance tasks simple enough to do on your own. Best of all, you don’t even need special tools for them; a regular vacuum cleaner is often sufficient. What’s vital is to carry out these steps regularly to keep your AC efficient and in tip-top condition.
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