It’s coming. You can feel it in the air. Summer. And with it, heat. Last year, heat waves made things uncomfortable for many people and downright miserable for some air conditioning systems. This year, we can probably look forward to the same sort of conditions, so it’s a good time to be thinking about what you can do to make the season easier on your HVAC, and your wallet.
Problems with air conditioning systems can be caused by malfunctions in several different places. Modern systems place a large, metal box outside your home. This is the condenser, and it’s where the refrigerant where the heat is lost to the outside and the refrigerant cools back to liquid form and is returned inside to the evaporator coil. There, as the refrigerant evaporates, it absorbs heat from the inside of the house.
So, if you’re having a problem keeping cool, here are some things to check:
- Check to make sure the thermostat is correctly set. Of course, it probably is set correctly, but check it anyway. You can save yourself some embarrassment by doing so.
- Next, check your electrical panel for tripped breakers or blown fuses.
- Examine your system, inside and out. If you notice frost or ice on any of the equipment, shut the system down. You’re going to need a professional at this point.
- Make sure all outside equipment is clean and has a free flow of air around it.
- Pools of water near the equipment could be a sign of blockage in the drainage tubes. Algae are a common cause and can be removed with a bleach solution.
Filters are one of the key points where you can save yourself a lot of headaches. Air drawn in by the air conditioner for cooling passes through air filters to remove dust and other particulates. A dirty filter causes the system to have to work harder, resulting in less cooling, higher electricity bills and potential damage to the equipment. The lower air flow can cause your evaporator coils to ice-up and completely block air flow. Filters should be replaced once every two to three months. If you have pets, you’ll want to change them every six weeks.
The evaporator is usually inside your home, perhaps in an attic. You’ll have to change the air filter there, so while you’re there make sure the area around the equipment is clear and nothing is blocking or interfering with the system.
The condenser unit, typically on the side of your home, needs to be kept clean as well. You’ll need to cut back grass, weeds and shrubs that may impede the flow of air. And a dirty condenser needs to be cleaned by cleaning the fins and removing dirt or debris with a vacuum. This should ONLY be done with the system off and the 240-volt current switched off at the electrical panel. You may wish to have a professional help you with this if you are not used to working with electricity. And when you do have a professional HVAC technician at your home, be sure to ask questions. Find out as much as you can about the unique nature of your system. For example, ask where the filters are located and what type of filter is right for your home.