Air conditioners need annual maintenance to operate properly. An air conditioner loses five percent of its efficiency for every year that it goes without maintenance. With just a few easy maintenance procedures, they can perform both economically and dependably for many years. There are two types of air conditioning systems; one type is a central air conditioner, and the other is a room air conditioner.
Central Air Conditioners
There are two components that must be maintained in a central air conditioner. The first component is the condenser. It is located outside of the home, and it’s usually placed on a small concrete pad. The second component is called an evaporator coil. This coil is mounted on the main duct directly over the furnace. Because central air units are tied into the airflow system, it shares a blower, motor, and the duct system used for heating to distribute cool air throughout the home. If the system is working yet not cooling the home, the problem can usually be traced back to the airflow system. It is important to note that before working on the air conditioner, the power source to the unit should be turned off.
Maintaining the Evaporator
The evaporator is above the furnace in the main air duct junction. If the junction has foil insulation at the front, it is accessible. The evaporator should be cleaned every year. To clean the evaporator properly, follow the steps below.
Remove the foil insulation at the front of the main air duct junction. If the foil insulation is worn, a replacement can be purchased.
The insulation on the main air duct junction will probably be taped with duct tape. Carefully remove the tape because it will have to be replaced when the cleaning process is complete. The access plate is located directly behind the insulation. The plate is anchored in place with a few screws. Remove the screws and the plate.
Clean the underside of the evaporator with a utility brush. If the back of the area cannot be reached, slide the evaporator out just a bit. The tray can slide out even if it is connected by pipes.
Clean the tray below the evaporator. The tray carries condensation from the evaporator. To remove and prevent future fungus growth in the tray, pour a tablespoon of chlorine bleach into the hole inside of the tray. If the tray has water in it, there may be a clog. Use the end of a coat hanger or a heavy wire to remove the clog.
Put the unit back in place and reattach the plate. Tape the insulation back into its original position.
Turn the air conditioner back on and check it for air leakage. If there are any leaks, seal them with duct tape.. Replacement duct tape can be purchased.
Maintaining the Condenser
The condenser is usually placed outside of the house. It routinely collects dirt, airborne dust, and debris from surrounding trees. Inside of the condenser unit is a fan; its function is to circulate air over the coil. The condenser must be cleaned on the intake side. Before shutting down the power to the air conditioning unit, check the direction of the air movement. To clean the condenser, follow the steps below.
Remove any grass, vines, or weeds that are growing around the condenser unit; they may be obstructing the airflow.
Clean the condenser with a coil cleaner.. Instructions for using the cleaner will be provided by the manufacturer. Flush the coil clean with water, but do not use a hose. Let it dry before beginning the next step.
Clean the fins with a brush to remove the dirt. In order to reach the fins, it may be necessary to remove the outer grill. Do not attempt to clean the fins with a garden hose; water could cause the dirt to clump. This would result in compacting the fins with mud. Use care when cleaning the fins because they can be damaged easily. If any of the fins look bent, try to straighten them out with a fin comb.. This special tool is designed to get into the spaces between the fins. A fin comb can be purchased.
Inspect the concrete pad that the condenser rests on to ensure that it is level. Use a carpenter’s level on all sides of the unit to test it. If the concrete pad has settled, place rocks or gravel underneath the pad to level the unit.
During the winter months, the outside condenser unit should be protected from harsh weather conditions. To prevent ice damage or leaf blockage, cover the unit with a condenser cover that is designed to fit the shape of a condenser unit. Alternatively, heavy plastic sheeting that is secured with a sturdy cord can be used to protect the unit.
How to Maintain Room or Window Air Conditioning Units
There are many homes and apartments that use window or room air conditioning units. It’s very important to learn how to maintain them so that they will run smoothly. Proper maintenance performed on these smaller units will head off future malfunctions, and it will ensure that the units are operating at optimal efficiency levels.
Maintaining the Air Conditioning Filter
During warm weather months, the filter should be changed once each month. If the atmosphere is extremely dusty, the filter will need to be replaced twice a month during the summertime. Many room air conditioners are sold with washable filters that resemble sponge rubber. Clean this type of filter with water and a mild detergent. Rinse it well, and let it dry before replacing it.
Window Unit Power Cord
The power cord can become worn over time. To test it, remove the control panels and unscrew the terminals. Place a testing wire over the bare lead wires. Use a volt-ohm-milliammeter (VOM) that is set to the RX1 scale, and attach it to the plug of the cord. If the meter registers zero, the cord is functional. If the meter registers above zero, the cord should be replaced. A VOM can be purchased.
Condenser and Evaporator Coils
The condenser and evaporator coils will need to be cleaned once a month during the cooling season. In very dusty areas, clean it twice a month. A vacuum cleaner works very well to clean these components. If the fins are bent, they can be straightened out by using a fin comb.
Maintaining the Air Conditioning Switch
The switch is located behind the control panel, and it turns the unit on. If the unit is not running, and it is receiving power, it’s probably due to a bad switch. To remedy this problem, take the control panel off, and locate the switch. Inspect the switch terminals for signs of burning. Replace it with the same type of switch as the original one.
Window Unit Thermostat Maintenance
Maintaining the thermostat and the drain ports are vital for room air conditioning or window units. To maintain the thermostat and drain ports properly, follow the steps below.
Remove the grill and the control panel. The thermostat has a special sensor bulb that is attached to it. The sensor bulb extends from the thermostat to the evaporator coil. The role of the sensor bulb is to sense the temperature.
Remove the thermostat very carefully because it will have to be replaced in its identical position later on. To make replacing it easier, tag the location of the bulb before removing the thermostat.
Test the thermostat by using a VOM that is set to RX1 scale. Attach the probes of the tester to the terminals. Turn the temperature controls to the coolest setting. If the meter registers zero, the thermostat is functional. If the meter registers above zero, replace the thermostat with the same type as the original thermostat.
Maintaining Window Unit Drain Ports
Drain ports often become clogged. This results in water that leaks from the unit. To prevent clogs, clean each of the ports with a short piece of wire hanger or the blade of a pocket knife. Do this once each month. Additionally, check the condenser side of the unit. Some models feature a drain port at the bottom edge of the frame. If the unit has this type of drain port, clean it when cleaning the other ports.
The compressor, fan, and the motor also require routine maintenance to keep window or room air conditioners running efficiently.
Window Unit Fan Maintenance
When a window unit fan stops functioning, the cause is usually dirty or loose blades. If the fan is noisy, cleaning or tightening the blades will usually remedy the problem. To properly maintain a window unit fan, follow the directions below.
Open the cabinet and locate the fan. Clean any dirt or debris with a vacuum and a cloth. Check the fan for signs of looseness. The blade is attached to the shaft with a setscrew at the hub of the blade. Tighten the setscrew. If the unit has a round vent fan, tighten the fan on the motor shaft by inserting a long blade screwdriver through the port in the fan. Apply a few drops of detergent-free motor oil in the oil ports. Do this at the start of each cooling season.
To test the motor, use a VOM set to RX1 scale. Disconnect the terminal wires and attach the probes of the VOM to the wires. If the meter registers within the range of 3 to 30 ohms, the motor is working properly. However, if the meter registers zero or a very high number, replace it.
To replace the fan, remove the fan motor, the power wires, the fan, and the mounting bolts. Replace the motor by using these steps in reverse.
Good Maintenance is Well Worth the Effort
Maintaining an air conditioning unit is not a complicated task; however, there are occasions when a unit will have to be replaced. The process of replacing an air conditioner is easy, but there are factors that must be considered before a replacement is made. Some of these factors are the square footage of the home or rooms to be cooled, budget, and installation/labor costs.
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