While your air conditioner is probably the last thing on your mind this winter, it’s the ideal time to ensure that it’s running properly for the spring and summer. In between the frigid temperatures and ice storms, an ambitious Oklahoma homeowner will take a few hours over the weekend to ensure their system is ready for the heat. Extended days below freezing, along with ice and snow, can affect your home air conditioning system’s start-up. Whether own an outdoor or indoor unit, proactive maintenance can help keep it running smoothly – and avoid costly repair bills.
Keep your household comfortable all summer with these simple winter air conditioning maintenance tips.
- Remove Debris from Outdoor Coil – If your yard contains several trees or bushes, there’s a good chance that foliage, branches and other debris has blown into or against the coil. AC coils are designed to transfer heat and any obstructions can greatly affect the performance. You’ll want to remove any obstruction and make sure to clean away any debris in the area. A condenser cover or coil blanket is only recommended for areas that receive heavy foliage and debris cover over the winter.
- Inspect Outdoor Unit Panels – The unit panels enclose and secure the electrical connections. It is important that they are in place to protect the system. If a panel is misaligned or missing, this could also affect the performance and ultimately damage the equipment. If a panel has been damaged or lost, call a professional to assess the situation before you start the unit.
- Check for Damaged Pipe Insulation – The suction line (the larger copper pipe) supplies refrigerant back to the compressor in the outdoor unit. If the suction pipe has damaged insulation, this could cause a loss of required cooling which could damage the unit – and waste energy. Causes for the damage include sun rot, freezing water, or animals seeking shelter. The insulation should be intact to maintain system cooling. If the insulation needs replacing, do so before starting the unit.
- Check Condenser Covers/Coil Blankets – You may have covered the outdoor coil for protection throughout the winter. If so, checking to ensure that it is secure is important (especially in Oklahoma where the wind itself can cause severe damage). You will also want to make sure that any covers or blankets are removed from the system before you turn it on. Many people forget to remove protective coverings which can result in costly repairs.
- Check the Supply Vents and Return Grills – Inspect both the supply and return air grills and vents to make sure that they are open and clean from dust and debris. If you own a pet you might consider using a vacuum to remove the fine hairs that can wreak havoc on these smaller units. Clean vents and grills will ensure maximum efficiency and keep utility bills down.
- Change the Air Filters – After several months of non-use it is likely that the filter has accumulated some dust and debris. To ensure that your indoor unit is running efficiently, always change the filter once a year. This is probably one of the most important (and simple) maintenance procedures that you can do on your own.
- Check the Coil Drainage Hose – Also referred to as the “condensate line,” this (usually plastic) component drains the condensation gathered on a tray from the coil. If the hose is damaged or dislodged, the tray will fill up and flood the unit and could cause potential flooding. Check to make sure that the line is attached and in running condition. (Under no circumstances should water be leaking from an indoor air conditioner!)
- Trial Run – The best way to make sure that your indoor unit is running properly is to simply turn it on. During the first warm spring day, make sure that you can feel cold air coming through the registers. If the air isn’t cool, or hasn’t cooled within a couple of minutes, something is wrong. Turn off the system and check the vents and hose once again. Never leave a system running if it is not working properly. Any problem will exacerbate and cause more damage. Call a professional HVAC technician and have the unit assessed.
Early maintenance of your air conditioning system can ensure a comfortable transition into the warmer months and help keep your utility bills down. As you perform this general inspection, assess the overall health and stability of the unit. If it’s an older model (more than 10 years), you might consider calling in a professional to give it a thorough check-up. Air conditioners that are more than a decade old should probably be replaced.