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8 maintenance items you should address with all air conditioning units

air conditioning maintenance


If you’ve ever experienced a summer heatwave with a malfunctioning air conditioner, then you know that living in sweltering heat with no A/C for relief is simply miserable. What you may not realize is that living in extreme heat without air conditioning can be dangerous.

Even if a malfunctioning cooling system doesn’t seem like a big deal to you, it can still cause health problems. When your A/C is clean and running properly, it reduces the level of moisture in the air, preventing microorganisms like mold from growing in your home. Mold is a potentially dangerous microorganism that can wreak havoc on allergy sufferers and people with asthma, not to mention, require costly remediation measures. 

Unless your unit is under warranty or you’ve signed up for an affordable home protection plan like the ones offered by Cinch Home Services, you could end up shelling out big bucks to have your malfunctioning A/C repaired or replaced.


The importance of A/C unit maintenance

Regular maintenance of your heating, ventilating and air conditioning (HVAC) system not only will keep your family healthy and comfortable during the cooling season, but it can also help you save money by lowering your energy bills and prolonging the life span of your A/C unit. This article will explain what you need to do to keep your air conditioner running smoothly.


How often should you have your air conditioner serviced?

Central air conditioning systems should undergo professional servicing at least once a year by a HVAC professional, but that doesn’t mean you should ignore your unit in between checkups. There are plenty of air conditioning maintenance tasks you can do on your own to keep your HVAC system operating at peak performance levels.


8 maintenance items to address on your air conditioning unit

Your HVAC has an exterior unit (condenser coil and compressor) and an interior unit (evaporator and blower). It’s important to keep both clean and free of debris. The following preventative HVAC maintenance tips will help you keep your central air conditioner in good working order in between annual service visits. 

It’s very important that you turn the unit off before starting any maintenance. Look for the exterior shut-off box and be sure that the switch is in the off position. You should also switch off the electrical power to your HVAC unit at the inside breaker box. Once you are sure that all electrical connections to your A/C system are disconnected, you can proceed with the following DIY tune-up tips. 

Remove debris from the outdoor unit

Start with the outside compressor/condenser unit. Leaves and other debris can get into this exterior unit, so you will want to inspect the unit and remove this material if necessary. 

To begin, remove the fan cage or grille from the unit. You should be able to easily remove the grille fasteners with a screwdriver or wrench. Once the fasteners are undone, lift the cage or grille up and away from the unit. Then, remove any leaves or debris that made their way inside of the unit. You can use your hands — you will probably want to wear gloves — or you can use a shop vac to suck the dirt out. You can also spray down the inside of the unit with a garden hose, but don’t use any kind of pressure nozzle or pressure wash system, as that could cause damage. 

Clean the outer fins

The HVAC condenser fins are the thin aluminum slats that run along the sides of your exterior A/C unit. These fins move the warm air away from the running air conditioner. If these fins get clogged, your A/C will run much less efficiently, especially during the warmer days when the unit might be running nonstop. 

Use a brush to remove any dirt and debris attached to or caught in these fins. You can also use a hose to spray the fins down, but just be careful not to apply too much water pressure. 

Straighten any bent outer fins

Sometimes, flying debris or even animals can bend or crush the outer fins. To keep the warm air circulating away from the unit, you will need to straighten out the fins. You can use a stiff bristle brush — like the kind you would use for cleaning grout — a flat-head screwdriver, a putty knife or even a butter knife. Just run the tool up and down the fins as you apply enough pressure to get them straight. 

Make sure the unit is level

While you are working on the outside unit, take a moment to ensure that it is level. The condenser unit sits on a pad that can start to sink or tip over time. This could be due to soil erosion from water runoff or a natural shifting of the ground below the pad. 

If the condenser unit is not level, the compressor inside could fail. Use a level to check the unit, and if it is off-kilter, take measures to correct it. 

Clean around the unit

It’s important to keep the area around the condenser cleared so that proper airflow is not obstructed. Keep a clearing of about two feet around each side of the unit. Rake leaves regularly and remove any buildup of dirt and debris around the compressor. When your A/C is not in use, you may want to cover the top to keep debris and dirt from falling in. 

Clean the evaporator coil of your inside unit

Next, you can move inside to perform some DIY air conditioner maintenance.

The blower or furnace can be found in a metal case usually installed in an indoor closet or in the attic. Inside this part of the system is the evaporator coil. The job of the evaporator coil is to cool the air before it’s blown into your house. 

The coil is filled with a heat transfer fluid — a very cold refrigerant — that keeps the coils cold. As warm air passes over the coils, this refrigerant absorbs its heat and moisture, and then cool air is blown out through the blower into your home. You want to keep this coil clean and in good working order so that it can do its cooling job. 

To get to the coil, you will need to open the evaporator coil door. This might be sealed with duct tape and/or screwed shut. Once you get the door opened, take a soft brush and gently run it over the coil. You can then spray a special coil cleaner directly onto the coil. The cleaner will foam up and then drip down to the evaporator drain pan. 

Clean the evaporator drain

You will next want to clean out the evaporator drain and drain pan. The drain pan catches the moisture created when the warm air comes in contact with the evaporator coil. This water is caught by the evaporator drain pan, which travels through a drain tube to either a basement drain or directly to the outside of the house. You want to keep this part of the system clean so that algae and mold don’t plug up the drain. 

Start by cleaning the drain pan with soap and hot water. You can also use a little bleach. Then, go to the end of the drain line and use a shop vac to suck any algae or debris out of the tube. Next, go back inside and pour a 50-50 solution of bleach and water down the drain. This should keep the drain from clogging and the water from flooding your house or causing the unit to stop functioning. 

Change the blower filter

Finally, you should change the air filter on your HVAC system once a month. Dirty air filters not only reduce the indoor air quality throughout your home but also decrease airflow, causing your unit to work longer and harder than necessary.  

The air filter is usually located behind the air grille return on the ceiling or a wall of your house or inside the blower compartment of the air handler. Simply remove the old filter and replace it with a new one, preferably one that has the same airflow rating.


Say goodbye to costly A/C unit repairs with Cinch

A/C maintenance is the most important way homeowners can avoid costly repairs. But even if you are vigilant in protecting your HVAC unit, there’s no guarantee that your air conditioner will never break down. Life happens, and sometimes you need a professional to repair or replace components in your home. 

With a Cinch home warranty, you’ll never have to worry about costly A/C unit repairs or keeping your family cool. Get a free personalized quote today and find out just how affordable a worry-free summer can be.


Follow these air conditioning maintenance guidelines and keep your A/C running cold and clean all summer long.