5 DIY Tips for at Home Air Conditioner Maintenance
Air conditioner maintenance can not only extend the life of your unit, but it can also improve the health of your family & pets, and help you avoid costly repairs down the line that could’ve easily been avoided. We’ll walk through 5 tips that can help you maintain your air units.
Know that it’s always recommended that a professional take care of your Air Conditioning unit.
Replace the Air Filter
on Average every 90 days.
Changing your air filter is the most simple way to maintain your air conditioning unit in your home. There are a couple rules of thumb to remember:
- Your average home without kids & pets: Change every 90 days
- Home with pets and/or kids: Change every 60-90 days
- A heavy traffic home with pets & kids: Change every 30-60 days
Always change your air filter when you can hold up the filter to a light and not see any light coming through, or the filter looks overly coated with dirt, dust, and dander.
Other factors that affect how often you’ll want to change your air filter include allergies or whether or not this is a primary residence. If you have allergies, you’ll want to change the filter more often, including up to every 15 days. If this isn’t your primary residence, or you’re seldom home, your filter could last up to 6 months or more.
How to Change Your Air Filter
Changing your air filter can extend the life of your home’s AC unit, promote good air quality in your home, and is one of the most simple home air conditioner maintenance tasks you can do right now.
Determine your Air Filter’s Size
Determining your air filter’s size is pretty straightforward. Open up the air filter grill and take out the existing air filter. Look along the edge and you’ll find the existing filter’s measurement. For example, our filter above is 20″ x 20″ x 1″. Meaning, it’s a 20″ wide by 20″ high filter that is 1″ thick. We’ll want to replace it with the exact same size filter.
Determine Air Flow Direction
This step is important. you’ll want to ensure that your air filter is going in the right direction when you install it back into the air filter space. On an air return, air is traveling from inside the room to the inside of the duct. So air flow will be going toward the air duct. In the example above, you’ll see an arrow with “Air Flow” inside of it. That means that an arrow will point to the inside of the duct.
Flush Your Drain Line
Once a Year in Spring
Water builds up in the air handler unit during usage due to condensation. This water funnels down a drain line that exits your home and dumps this water outside, where it belongs. Over time, algae or even mold can build up and clog this drain line. It’s very simple to prevent this from happening, let us show you how.
First, you’ll need to locate your air handler unit. This is typically in a closet or attic space. Once you’ve located the air handler, you’ll look for a PVC pipe coming off the unit and heading outside. This PVC pipe is your drain line.
Air Handler PVC Drain Line
Next, you’ll want to create a mixture of half bleach & half hot water in a measuring cup. Ensure your air unit is turned off and will not cut on while you clear the drain line. Pour the liquid mixture down the drain line. That’s it! Do this once a year to prevent a clogged drain line.
Air Handler PVC Drain Line Vent
Rinse the Condenser Coil with a Hose
at least once a year.
Your outdoor air unit’s cleanliness is a direct factor on how efficient your whole system runs. A dirty air conditioning condenser unit can decrease your efficiency by over 30% and cause more work on the entire system, leading to costly repairs.
Taking care of the outdoor units once per year on whenever dirt and debris begin clogging the unit can save you a lot of time down the road.
Locate your outdoor air unit to begin this simple maintenance task.
Begin this task by clearing leaves, sticks, and other debris away from the outdoor air units. It’s simple enough to do, but be careful not to damage the air unit or any of the pipes/wires coming off of it. Make sure to take your time and get everything out of the area around your air units.
Run a hose along the outside of the air unit. This will begin to knock down any dirt, leaves, pet hair & dander or anything else that is on the air unit and robbing it of its ability to efficiently cool your home. This is best performed in the Fall after leaves have fallen & in the Spring before you kick on your air unit for the seasons ahead. Remember, more efficient systems save you money on your electric bill!
Use a Digital Programmable Thermostat
So many options to choose from!
You’re probably asking yourself, why is this something I’d want to do? Simply put, energy savings! Digital thermostats are more accurate at reading the room’s temperature and regulating based on a range of data, making them less sensitive to changes in the air and less unnecessary system cut-on and cut-offs.
Mechanical thermostats don’t necessarily give you the temperature you’ve set it to. There is variance in the metals used to determine the room temperature which can result in up to a 5 degree +/- difference in the setting you choose.
Finally, digital thermostats also have a SMART option. Thermostats like the EcoBee & Nest are changing the way we control the comfort in our homes.
Smart Thermostats can detect occupancy, learn your heating & cooling behaviors, and give advice on how to save money over the lifetime of their usage. At the time of writing this blog post, we’ve owned our EcoBee4 for 7 months and have saved $142.91 in energy usage. Meaning, at the 1-year mark, we’ll have likely covered close to the cost of the thermostat!
Regardless of cost, the reduced cut on and cut off time will extend the life of your units as this is the time they’re stressed the most. The wattage used to cut on a unit is much higher than it consumes when it’s at running speed.
Beware of Changes in Operation
These changes are signs of failure to come.
As you’re living your day to day lives, you may start to notice an inconsistency in the way your air conditioning unit is working. These sometimes subtle and sometimes not so subtle situations can be a warning sign for failures or full breakdowns to come.
Here are a few things to keep an eye out (or ear out!) for:
- Outdoor AC Units are running louder than normal
- Water coming out of air handler
- Air Conditioning not able to keep up with set temperature
- Air Conditioning unit cutting on and off too often
- Odors coming from vents
These items are often ignored and lead to system failure and costly repairs or replacements.
If you feel any of these items above are happening, you should schedule a check-up right away. Air conditioner maintenance is vital to the life of your AC unit: fixing issues before bigger failures appear can extend the life of your system, a major money savings!