Did you know that a central air conditioning system can lose from 5-15% of its efficiency in a year if it’s not maintained properly? That may not sound like a lot at first, but consider that an air conditioner typically accounts for over 50% of your energy costs during the summer and you see how that can add up. Leave your system unmaintained long enough and you risk damaging the system as much as losing money to energy waste.
The good news is that you can keep your system running at peak efficiency – keeping you comfortable, saving you money and protecting your investment for many years – with a simple annual maintenance program.
Your Air Conditioner Maintenance Checklist
It may not seem like an air conditioner has that many moving parts, but you’d be surprised! There’s plenty inside that sleek housing that can go wrong. These are some of the things that should be checked during maintenance and why they matter.
Refrigerant. Refrigerant is what makes the cooling magic happen, and without it your system isn’t going to perform. During maintenance, refrigerant should be checked to ensure that it’s at proper levels, or refilled if necessary so that you know your system is running at maximum efficiency – and you’re getting the level of cooling that you’re paying for.
Compressor. The compressor is contained in the condenser unit that sits outside your house and plays a vital role in the cycle of turning refrigerant from gas to liquid so it can continue to do its job. In addition to cleaning leaves and debris from the outside housing, the compressor itself needs to be checked for proper amperage. Over-amperage is a typical warning sign of internal breakdown.
Condenser fan and coils. The condenser fan moves air across the condenser coils in the synchronized cooling dance that means an efficiently running unit. Both need to be kept clean and some fan types need to be lubricated to ensure that they’re doing their job effectively. Without lubrication, friction can damage parts or increase energy consumption, wasting energy and money. And dirty coils means your system will run longer to cool your home, adding up in energy costs.
Contactor points and capacitor. The contact points contain the electrical arc that starts the compressor’s motor and much like the brakes on your car, they can wear out. The capacitor works in tandem with contact points and can be likened to your car’s battery, which provides the voltage that allows the motor to run. It’s important to check that the unit is achieving proper voltage, otherwise you could seriously damage your compressor, and that can cost you. A simple maintenance check can keep things humming along smoothly.
Thermostat. If your thermostat reading is off, you could be cooling to an entirely unintended temperature. If you use a timer that cools your home while you’re at work or away, that could mean wasting energy (and money). If it is calibrated properly, that means it is registering within one to two degrees of set point. Checking for proper calibration means your system is running as effectively as possible.
Evaporator Coils. These are typically located in the indoor unit and look like a series of small pipes. They play a vital role in absorbing heat so that the air pushed back into your home is cool. During maintenance, it’s important to check that the temperature split is within 15-20 degrees. That means if 80 degree air goes in, 60-65 degree air comes out. A 15-20 degree split is considered effective. Since the cooling happens at the coil, it create a moist environment where mold and bacteria can grow, leading to poor efficiency – and poor health. Routine maintenance will ensure there is no mold growth and coils will be cleaned to ensure proper heat transfer.
Blowers. Blowers deliver cool air to your home so motors need to be checked for proper amperage and air flow. Airflow problems can reduce your air conditioner’s efficiency by up to 15%.
Safety controls. These are just what they sound like – controls that ensure your safety if something serious malfunctions in the system. Routine maintenance will ensure these are functioning properly and will shut the machine down if there’s a problem.
Electrical Connections. Faulty electrical connections can lead to safety concerns, force your air conditioner to work harder to cool your home, and even lead to serious damage of components. They should be checked for tightness and full voltage.
Filters. Dirty filters can lead to poor air quality, diminished airflow, damaged components and early system failure. And by now you can see how all those things lead to increased energy costs, unnecessary expenses for repairs or system replacement, even unhealthy conditions in your home. Filters should be replaced regularly.
Crankcase heater. The purpose of the crankcase heater is to ensure the compressor oil stays warm. Why is this important? Because the oil’s tendency is to travel to the warmest spot and you want to keep it right where it is. Otherwise, you risk the oil mixing with the refrigerant, which can cause major damage and immediate system failure. This vital piece of equipment must be checked to ensure that it’s maintaining the proper oil temperature.
Leaks. When it comes to efficient cooling, leaks are your enemy. Air leaks mean that cool air is being wasted, along with your hard earned money. Duct problems are often the culprits in air leakage. Other things leak, too, like oil, water and coolant. Regular maintenance will ensure everything is in its place and working efficiently.
When it comes to a good maintenance program, there’s more to do! Other key tasks – like flushing condensate to prevent water backups, checking for excessive vibrations that can cause your machine to work harder and more – will help keep your system working like brand-spanking-new for as long as possible. And that’s good news for your comfort – and your wallet.
If you haven’t kept up with your air conditioner, or if you’re interested in learning more about how we can help maximize your system’s efficiency and help you be more comfortable and save money, too, call us at (732) 316-5554 or contact us online. We’re available to answer all your questions.