At Home Air Conditioner Maintenance

A well-maintained air conditioner is the secret to an enjoyable summer—and seasonal popularity

If you have central air conditioning, this is likely the time of year your popularity increases among friends and family. Sure, your impressive BBQ skills might have something to do with it. But the real reason for the spike in visitors from June through August is because your home provides some welcome relief from the summer heat. An air conditioned home is a summertime hotspot—or more fittingly, cool spot—for anyone in need of a break from the sun.

To ensure your air conditioner is in prime working order when you need it the most, regular home air conditioner maintenance is key.  Here are a few expert tips—including DIY maintenance and advice on how to clean your air conditioner—to help keep your AC operating as efficiently as possible.

1. Replace or clean filters regularly

This is probably one of the easiest and most important things you can do for air conditioning maintenance. A clogged or dirty filter will obstruct normal airflow and may let dirt and dust particles enter directly into the evaporator coil, impairing its ability to absorb heat. Depending on the type of system you have, filters may be reusable—in which case you should follow manufacturer instructions to clean them properly—or they will need to be replaced.

During peak usage, clean filters every one to two months, particularly if your neighbourhood is dusty or if you have pets. A good way to check if your filter needs cleaning or replacing is the flashlight test: Shine a flashlight behind your filter and if you can easily see the light shining through, your filter is okay. If not, it’s probably time to clean or replace it.

2. Examine and clean air conditioner coils

There are two main types of coils operating in your home AC: the evaporator coil and the condenser coil.

  • The evaporator coil—located inside or near the air handler blower—is part of the system where the refrigerant absorbs heat and where the cold air comes from.  A clean filter will help keep your evaporator coil clean too, but you should still check it annually and clean as required.
  • The condenser coil is in the condenser unit—the large, square unit outside your house—and this is where the refrigerant releases much of the heat it absorbed from your home. Try to minimize the amount of dirt and debris close to the condenser unit from sources like dryer vents, nearby trees, and grass clippings, and ensure at least a 2-foot (0.6 metre) distance between the condenser unit and nearby foliage to maximize air flow.

3. Clean condenser unit

Once a summer, give your outdoor condenser unit a thorough, but gentle cleaning. You can use a snow brush to wipe away debris, particularly poplar tree fluff and leaves, and then use gentle water flow from your garden hose to give the unit a thorough rinse off. Too much water pressure can bend the fins, making the unit less efficient.

Signs you should contact a professional

  • A layer of frost on your evaporator is a major concern. Continuing to operate your AC with a frozen evaporator could cause the compressor to fail.
  • Oily residue around the evaporator or in the drain pan could be a sign that your coil is leaky and needs replacing.
  • Frost or ice buildup on the air conditioner condenser could mean there’s an airflow obstruction somewhere in the system or low refrigerant.
  • Excessive cycling on and off of your unit with insufficient cooling could be the result of a number of things including blocked airflow or overheating components.

Not into DIY air conditioner maintenance?

Let’s face it, not everyone has the know-how or time to give their air conditioner coils, fins, and filters the regular attention they need. At First Call Heating and Air Conditioning, our team of expert service technicians and our pocket-friendly protection plans make it easy to stick to regular maintenance and keep your air conditioner running effectively for the long run.

Even if the steady flow of cool air keeping you comfortable during the summer months comes with a steady flow of guests to your home, it’s still worth the investment in upkeep—especially if those guests bring steak and beers in return.


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