Professional A/C Maintenance Is Necessary for Efficient, Reliable Cooling
Routine professional A/C maintenance is a necessity no matter where you live, but with the workload Chicagoland’s hot summers place on our air conditioners, it’s even more important in our area.
No matter how advanced or carefully manufactured your system, it still relies on regular care from you and your heating and cooling technician. Over time, parts get dirty, wires work loose, and lubricant runs out. Any one of these problems can reduce your system’s efficiency and cause excess wear on the components.
Staying on top of maintenance ensures you catch minor issues and take care of them while they’re still quick and inexpensive to deal with. Neglect your system, however, and you could end up having to replace an expensive part years early. Keep in mind that not all problems cause obvious symptoms, so it’s still important that professional A/C maintenance be performed on schedule even when your system seems to be working just fine.
Professional A/C Maintenance Does More Than Save You Money
Less money spent on energy and repairs is one of the main benefits of calling in a pro to help keep your A/C in shape, but you may find other benefits even more valuable.
Pay less for cooling – A dirty air filter drags your system’s efficiency down by around 5 to 15 percent. Dust on the evaporator (indoor) coil reduces energy efficiency by 10 percent or more. Debris on the condenser (outdoor) coil also impairs the system’s efficiency.
That’s all without accounting for worn fan belts, loose wires, and an inaccurate thermostat. All of these are issues that can be prevented or corrected with basic routine air conditioner maintenance so your system will reach the maximum efficiency of which it’s capable.
Limit repair hassles – The same issues that cut into your air conditioner’s efficiency also place strain on the components. Because the components aren’t operating under the conditions for which they were designed, they’re more likely to break down. That could mean anything from a broken fan belt to a failed compressor.
Even if the problem is something minor you can take care of yourself, you’ll still have to spend time, energy and money on the repairs. That goes double if the problem is more involved and requires professional repair work. A little regular maintenance means facing far fewer of these hassles.
Get more years out of your A/C – To keep your air conditioner performing well for the full 15 to 20 years of its life expectancy, you’ll need to keep an eye out for issues that can cause major breakdowns. For example, a clogged filter can impede airflow so much it burns out the fan motor. A very dirty evaporator coil can eventually ruin your compressor. These problems are easy to prevent just by calling in a professional to inspect and clean your system once a year.
Protect indoor air quality – Even more important than saving money is protecting your health. The easiest way to prevent your air conditioner from turning into a threat to your health is to change the air filter regularly. Air conditioner filters trap dust mites, pollen, mold spores and other organic debris. If left in too long, this debris encourages the growth of mold.
Your condensate drain is another place than can harbor mold if not cleaned regularly. Mold spores can exacerbate asthma and allergy symptoms, and they’re not great for healthy people either. Simply maintaining your A/C regularly protects your respiratory health.
Keep your home safe – A blocked condensate drain can cause water to back up into your home. Because most of these drains are out of sight, you’re unlikely to notice the problem until the damage to your floors has already been done. Although rare, fires can occur due to loose or corroded A/C wiring. To avoid these issues, have a professional inspect your air conditioner every year.
Enjoy a more reliable system – Imagine coming home after a long, hot summer day at work only to find your air conditioner won’t turn on. After waiting in your hot living room for the technician to arrive, you learn the cause of the problem is a failed motor or compressor, neither of which are cheap. If you schedule annual professional maintenance inspections and properly care for the system the rest of the year, this scenario is far less likely to occur.
What You Can do to Keep Your A/C in Shape
Inspect the condenser – Check the outdoor condenser for bent or crushed fins. These interfere with airflow and should be straightened with a fin comb available from HVAC supply stores. Look the refrigerant lines over for damaged insulation, which reduces the system’s efficiency, and oily residue, which indicates a refrigerant leak.
Clean the condenser – Turn off the power to your system, remove any leaves or other debris from the outdoor unit, and use a soft brush to clean the fins. Remove the top of the unit and use a gentle stream of water from a garden hose to wash down the fins from the inside out. Trim back grass and other plants to at least 18 inches away from the condenser.
Care for the filter – When your air conditioner air filter develops a layer of dust and debris, it impedes air flowing into your system. The fan motor is then forced to work harder to draw in sufficient airflow. That wastes energy and wears out your motor faster. What’s more, if too little air is flowing through your system, you may find your indoor or outdoor coils freeze up frequently. Once a month, check your filter and replace it if you see a layer of debris buildup. In most homes, the air filter should be replaced every one to two months during periods of heavy use.
What Happens During a Professional A/C Maintenance Checkup
While taking care of some basic maintenance yourself is essential for keeping your air conditioner running efficiently, it’s no substitute for professional A/C maintenance. A technician trained and experienced in caring for air conditioners has the knowledge and tools to clean and tune up your system thoroughly and without causing damage. A technician also knows how to spot developing problems and take care of them before they turn into major headaches.
Some of the tasks your heating and cooling technician will perform during an annual maintenance call include:
Cleaning the condenser coil – Removing debris from the condenser helps, but having it thoroughly cleaned and inspected during professional A/C maintenance ensures there’s no dirt or damage remaining to impair your system’s performance.
Cleaning the evaporator coil – Even a thin layer of dust on the indoor evaporator coil impairs your system’s efficiency by insulating the coil and making it harder for the system to cool and dehumidify the air passing over. Cleaning the evaporator coil regularly is essential, but because it’s a relatively delicate component, care must be taken to avoid damaging it. A technician can remove even the most stubborn, stuck-on debris without causing damage.
Testing the refrigerant charge – An air conditioner that’s over- or undercharged with refrigerant runs less efficiently than a properly charged one. A low charge also suggests a possible refrigerant leak, which should be addressed immediately. Your technician can measure your refrigerant charge and remove or add refrigerant as needed, as well as find and repair any leaks.
Cleaning the condensate drain – Condensate drains are prone to mold growth and blockages. While you might have heard you can remove blockages with bleach or wires, these methods can permanently damage the PVC drain and should be avoided. A professional will bring in specially formulated solvents and precision tools to easily and safely remove blockages. They may also add a time-release fungicide to reduce the risk of future mold problems.
Inspecting the electrical components – During professional A/C maintenance, your technician will check your motor’s operation and test its voltage to ensure it’s running safely and efficiently. The system wiring will be inspected for loose connections or corrosion, problems that impair efficiency and pose a fire hazard.
Adding lubrication – The moving parts in your air conditioner – the air handler motor and compressor – both require lubrication to keep them running efficiently and to prevent excess wear. Your technician will check the lubrication levels in these components and add more as necessary.
Testing the thermostat and controls – A thermostat that misreads the air temperature can’t keep your house at the temperatures you want. Your technician will check the thermostat’s calibration and make adjustments as necessary. The controls also will be tested to ensure your system turns on, runs, and shuts down again as designed. If you have a programmable thermostat, the technician can review its settings and advise you on choosing the most energy-efficient ones.
To stay in top form, your air conditioner requires a professional tune-up every year. If you haven’t scheduled professional A/C maintenance yet this year or you need any other help with your cooling and heating equipment, contact us at Black Diamond Plumbing & Mechanical.
Written by Rick Sperando
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