Air Conditioner Maintenance
This topic is probably the most important in this whole article. Turn it on and forget it, will cost you a ton of money and repair bills. Some very easy simple maintenance throughout the hot season will keep your unit running smoothly and efficiently, which means a lower electric bill, and we all like that.
A/C Filters – This is the easiest and most efficient things you can do. You don’t need to pay someone to do this. I can’t tell you where your filter is because of the many A/C unit variations, but you need to locate it either by asking someone, or write down your model and look it up online. Once you know this, (there can be more then just one filter) then keeping the filter(s) clean is a breeze. Your typical air conditioner in most homes is clogged and dirty. This robs you of efficiency and money. When normal air flow is obstructed or heavily restricted, the air flow that bypasses the filter will be carrying dirt
into the evaporator coil which inhibits the coils ability to absorb heat, which in turn lowers the efficiency of the entire system, but hikes your electric bill. So, this is an easy one, clean your filter(s) on scheduled basis depending on where you live. Some filters can be cleaned, some are disposable and must be replaced. As the dirt builds up, the restriction of air increases, the efficiency depletes, and the energy consumption goes up, that simple.
If you live in a dusty dirty climate, you may be cleaning or changing filters every couple weeks. I personally change or clean mine every month. The filter should not get to the point of being black and caked with dirt.
Air Conditioning Coils – Coils can collect dirt over time, especially if the filters are not cleaned regularly. Regardless, the evaporator coil will collect dirt over time anyway. This again, just like the filters, reduces it’s ability to absorb heat, which reduces efficiency, and raises the electric bill. Clean the coils at a minimum, every year. If you have an outside A/C unit, the coils will become dirty much faster. Keep an eye on the coils to make sure they are not collecting dirt.
A/C Coil Fins
You thought we were done, didn’t you! Not quite. Around the coil mentioned above are the coil fins. These maze like aluminum fins are very flexible and sensitive. They can be easily bent or flattened, exactly like the radiator on your car, this is bad. When a fin is bent it blocks air flow over the coil and has the same effect as being dirty. You can buy a simple little tool at most auto part stores called a “Fin Comb” which you gently run across the fins and straighten them out. A little tedious if you have allot of bent fins, but well worth the time to do it.
Air Duct and Refrigerant Leaks
This really would be more of a “Repair” topic, but you can catch these things during your maintenance. First let’s talk about air duct leaking (central type). When your nice cold air is leaking out of the duct work instead of delivering all of it to where it’s supposed to, it’s costing you a fortune. It would be pretty accurate for me to say that 10%-30% of most central air conditioning ducts are leaking. This is just pure wasted energy and money. The solution is very easy, maybe a little tedious, but if your ducts are leaking and you correct those, you will notice your system will work better, and your electric bill will drop!
Duct work is typically sealed with “Mastic”. Never use duct tape. I know, I like duct tape myself and it has many uses, but sealing airways efficiently is not one of them. Duct work is not all the same and comes in many shapes and sizes, and depending on homes age, the builder, and if the central A/C unit was a pre-install or a post-install, will determine where your ducts are located. If your lucky and can access them, you could check for obvious leaks yourself.
The best and effective course of action is to have an HVAC company leak test your duct work. This is not too costly, and will easily pay for itself if you have any leaks that should be sealed. Refrigerant leaks will require some experience and proper tools to detect. By all means, if you have the equipment, test it yourself. Otherwise you want to call your local (and reputable) HVAC company to determine the source of the leak and repair it. Refrigerant charge should match the manufacturer specs for the best efficiency. If your refrigerant has been charged, but your A/C is dwindling or doesn’t work, you just might
have a leak, or the charge may be too low.
Sizing Your Air Conditioner
Air conditioners, as I mentioned earlier come in different sizes and need to be matched to the area you intend to cool. It’s beyond the scope of this
article, so I’ll point you in the right direction. Do a search for “ACCA”-(Air Conditioning Contractors of America) or search for ASHRAE”-(American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air Conditioning Engineers). They both publish proper sizing procedures and calculations.
Air Conditioner Efficiency Ratings
Energy efficiency ratings show how many Btu per hour are removed for each watt of power used. You will find these ratings listed in one of two ways or both:
EER – “Energy Efficiency Ratio” and SEER – “Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio”
This rating is posted on the labeling. Look for a high EER rating. Buy the most efficient rating you can afford. Room A/C units typically range from 5000 Btu and up and have a 8.0 EER and up.
Central A/C systems typically have a 10.0 EER or SEER and up. You can do much better, but you’ll pay a little more. Don’t settle for the minimum, get the highest rating you can when it comes to the EER or SEER. It will pay for itself in the long run. Technology changes quickly, so don’t be surprised to see some very high EER or SEER numbers!
Get Ready for Summer Means more then just cleaning the BBQ grille!
If you already have air conditioning in your home, you will want to do a pre-season check to ensure your unit is running efficiently. If you cannot do this yourself, hire a local reputable HVAC service.
*Test for refrigerant leaks and ensure charge is correct and matches manufacturers specs for the unit.
*Measure air flow through the evaporator coil
*Clean all filters or replace as needed. Make sure all coils are clean.
*Check for and fix all air leaks if you have a central A/C system.
*Check electrical connections and terminals for tightness, corrosion, and apply a non conductive grease to inhibit corrosion.
*Oil motors and check any belts for correct tension, or excessive wear or cracks.
*If you have any bushes blocking your A/C unit whether it be a window unit, or pedestal mounted, remove them, they are blocking the air flow.
*If you do not have one, consider an electronic thermostat. A faulty or “off the mark” thermostat will waste energy.
Air Conditioning Recap and Summary
*Refrigerant is pumped by the compressor through copper lines into a Evaporator which absorbs heat, then goes to the condenser which dispels the heat. Of course you also have fans that blow the cold air in, and the heat out.
*You will find single room air conditioners, and central whole house air conditioners.
*Swamp coolers are a good alternative if you don’t want the A/C and live in a low humidity region.
*Keep your filters clean, you evaporator and condenser coils clean, your fins straight, your refrigerant charged and leak free, and your ducts (central a/c) clear of obstructions and leak free.
*Properly size the air conditioner you choose according to it’s purpose and cooling area size. This includes window units, not just central systems.
*Pay attention to energy efficiency ratings (EER and SEER) when making your purchase. The higher the number, the more efficient the unit will be.
*Give your A/C unit a good check and cleaning before the weather becomes too hot and you have to make an emergency call to your HVAC service.
Article Copyright 2007-2008 David V | DIYinnovation.com
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