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How to Avoid Common AC Problems

 In order to keep your home at a pleasant temperature, it is vital to keep your air conditioning system in good working order, especially during the hot summer months that are fast approaching. Moreover, a clean AC is an efficient AC, and an efficient AC is a far more cost-effective AC! However, these units can be prone to various issues that can lead to breakdowns, inefficient operation, and, ultimately, costly repair. By taking preventative measures and following proper maintenance practices, you can avoid many common problems and extend the lifespan of your system. In this post, we'll guide you through several steps to help you keep your AC unit in top shape.

Schedule Professional Maintenance

While regular DIY maintenance is a great way to save some money and learn about your system's intricacies, it's also crucial to have your AC system inspected and serviced by a professional HVAC technician at least once a year. By spotting and fixing possible problems before they escalate, professional maintenance keeps your system running smoothly and lessens the likelihood of breakdowns. During an expert air conditioning repair or service visit, the technician will clean and inspect the entire system, check refrigerant levels, lubricate any moving parts, and recalibrate the controls and safety measures. They should also recommend any necessary repairs or upgrades you might want to consider. 

Change Air Filters Regularly

Perhaps one of the most crucial steps in maintaining your AC unit is changing the air filters periodically. Clogged or dirty filters restrict airflow, causing the system to work harder and consume more energy (bad news if you are suffering from the current cost-of-living crisis). As a result, not only do your energy expenses go up, but the unit may wear out sooner than expected, which would mean a more extensive repair bill in the future. Take note of the necessary size and kind of filter as you remove the old one from the filter chamber. Once you have a replacement that fits, install it according to the manufacturer's instructions. As a general rule of thumb, you want to aim to change the filters every 1-3 months, depending on environmental conditions and the bead you use.

Clear Debris From Outdoor Unit

The outdoor unit, otherwise known as the condenser, is responsible for releasing heat from the refrigerant. Over time, leaves, dirt, and other detritus can accumulate around the unit, blocking airflow and reducing efficiency. If you imagine trying to blow through a straw filled with cotton wool, you'll understand how much more effort it can take. Before you start:

  1. Make sure you turn off the unit and disconnect the power supply. If it is connected directly to the fuse box, you should also turn this off to stop the flow of power to it.

  2. Use a soft-bristle brush or vacuum cleaner to gently remove any visible debris from the unit's exterior.

  3. Trim back any encroaching vegetation, ensuring at least 2 feet of clearance on all sides.

  4. If necessary, use a coil cleaning solution and a soft-bristle brush to clean the condenser coils.

  5. Reconnect the power supply and turn the system back on.

  6. Clean the outdoor unit at least twice a year, preferably in the spring and fall.

As long as you stay on top of this point and the previous one regarding air filters, you should find that your unit remains in great shape for a long time. 

Inspect And Clean Condensate Drain Line

The condensate drain line removes moisture from the AC unit, preventing water buildup and potential leaks. However, this line can become clogged with algae, which tends to enjoy the damp conditions it produces but can also lead to pretty serious damage from water backup. Locate the drain line, typically a PVC pipe running from the indoor unit to a nearby drain or out outside the home. Check for any visible signs of blockage or water buildup. If a blockage is suspected, use a wet/ dry vacuum or a condensate drain line cleaner (if you happen to have one of those lying around the place!) to clear the line. For stubborn clogs, you should remove the drain line and flush it with a garden hose or compressed air. Once cleaned, pour a mixture of water and vinegar or a biodegradable algaecide down the drain line to help prevent future clogs. Inspect and clean the condensate drain line at least once a year, preferably before the cooling season.

Consider Upgrading To A Programmable Thermostat

If you haven't already, you might want to consider upgrading to a programmable thermostat. These smart devices allow you to set temperature schedules based on your daily routine, ensuring that your AC system runs only when necessary. This helps you save energy, reduce utility bills, and minimize unnecessary wear and tear. When shopping for a programmable thermostat, look for features such as easy programming, compatibility with your AC system, energy-saving modes, and remote access via a smartphone app.

Provide Proper Insulation And Ventilation

Inadequate insulation and poor ventilation can strain your AC system unnecessarily, causing it to work harder and increasing the risk of breakdowns. Ensure your home is adequately insulated, especially in the attic and crawl spaces, to minimize heat transfer and reduce the cooling load. Additionally, exhaust fans should be used in bathrooms and kitchens to remove excess moisture and heat, windows and doors should be opened occasionally for fresh air circulation, and vents and registers should be kept clear of obstructions to ensure proper airflow. Attics and crawl spaces are particularly vulnerable to heat transfer, so it's essential to have adequate insulation installed in these areas. If you want an expert's opinion on what kind of insulation your home needs and how to install it, you might think about hiring an insulation contractor.

Ventilation plays a crucial role in maintaining a comfortable indoor environment and preventing excessive strain on your AC system. Bathrooms and kitchens are prime sources of moisture and heat, contributing to humidity levels and increasing the cooling demand. Always run exhaust fans during and after activities that generate moisture or heat, such as cooking or showering. This helps remove excess humidity and heat from the living spaces, reducing the burden on your AC unit.

Proactive AC maintenance can avoid common problems and ensure efficient system operation. Regular cleaning combined with professional maintenance can prevent breakdowns, reduce energy costs, and extend the AC's lifespan.

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