Air Conditioners

The most important maintenance task that will ensure the efficiency of your air conditioner is to routinely replace or clean its filters.
DIY Air Conditioner Maintenance

Clogged, dirty filters block normal airflow and reduce a system’s efficiency significantly. With normal airflow obstructed, air that bypasses the filter may carry dirt directly into the evaporator coil and impair the coil’s heat-absorbing capacity. Replacing a dirty, clogged filter with a clean one can lower your air conditioner’s energy consumption by 5% to 15%.

For central air conditioners, filters are generally located somewhere along the return duct’s length. Common filter locations are in walls, ceilings, furnaces, or in the air conditioner itself. Room air conditioners have a filter mounted in the grill that faces into the room.

Some types of filters are reusable; others must be replaced. They are available in a variety of types and efficiencies. Clean or replace your air conditioning system’s filter or filters every month or two during the cooling season. Filters may need more frequent attention if the air conditioner is in constant use, is subjected to dusty conditions, or you have fur-bearing pets in the house.

Key Considerations

  • Make sure that around outdoor air conditioning units and heat pumps there is at least 2 feet of clearance from plants and storage items.

  • Inspect refrigerant lines leading into the house. Replace insulation if missing or damaged.

  • The condenser must be level for proper operation. If it is not, then problems with drainage and premature wear and tear will occur. The unit must be level in both orientations, (north/south and east/west). If it is not, adjust the height and level the unit by adjusting the leveling feet, or by shimming the feet with wood shims slightly to achieve level. If the unit is seriously out of level, then repair or replace the pad the unit sets upon, and/or adjust the landscape grade.

  • To lubricate the fan bearings and clean the condenser on the inside, you must first shut the power off to the unit. Open the disconnect metal electrical box near the unit, then remove the power plug which activates the box or turn off the power with the shutoff handle or remove the fuse plug. Also turn off the power to the unit at the main electrical service panel. Wait a few minutes before proceeding with any further maintenance steps. This will allow any stored electrical charge that may reside with the unit’s capacitor to dissipate.

  • To access the outside and inside of the condenser coil you must remove the protective side grille. You also need to remove the top panel that protects the fan, motor, and interior of the condensing unit.

    • To remove the grille, remove the screws holding the side and top panels in place, using a Phillips head, flat-blade screwdriver or socket driver as required and place the screws in a secure area.

    • With care, pull the side grille away from the unit and lift the top panel which may also support the fan motor. Carefully support the top grille with the motor and fan making sure not to stress the electrical wire connectors.

    • Locate the fan motor oil ports above the fan blades and place a few drops of lightweight household oil into each port.

    • Clean dirt, leaves, and other debris from outside the condensing coils. Check the condensing coil fins and fan for damage from wind and hail. Vacuum the outside of the coil fins using a soft bristle brush attachment. You do not want to bend the fins when vacuuming.

    • Once the outside is relatively cleaned, clean the inside by using a hose with a spray gun, spraying water from inside the coil through to the outside of the coils, which will remove stuck debris. Do not spray fan motor or wires.

    • Vacuum out or remove by hand any debris littering inside bottom of unit.

    • If your unit has no bent coil fins, then replace the grille cover. If your unit has bent fins, they should be straightened out as much as possible for proper performance of the unit. Contact Oak View Mechanical to have the fins properly combed straight.

  • To power the unit back on after it has been shut off more than three hours, proceed by switching the thermostat inside your home to the “off” position. Restore power at the outside electrical disconnect box and service panel. Turn the thermostat to “cool” to power the unit back on.

While these maintenance procedures outlined within are manageable by homeowners, we recommend that they be performed by licensed HVAC contractors, who also run diagnostic tests to ensure that the system is operating optimally.

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