Air Conditioning Spring Start Up & Cleaning
Many contractors suggest that over half of all air-conditioner failures were the result of the owner’s failing to clean them.
Contrary to popular belief, air conditioners do not consume refrigerant as a car consumes oil, so under ideal conditions it would never need changing or filling. A low refrigerant level indicates a leak which should be repaired before adding more. While most new system connections are brazed (brass welds) to minimize leaks, many older units, over 10 years, were connected with mechanical flared fittings which can vibrate loose over the years, causing leaks.
Refrigerant leaks are problematic because:
– Low refrigerant levels reduce efficiency of the air conditioner.
– They can freeze the evaporator (inside) coil, causing it to ice up and block airflow
– Refrigerants are an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) controlled substance, deemed hazardous if released into the environment. Only licensed professionals are allowed to purchase it and must reclaim old refrigerant.
– The heart of the unit is the compressor that is cooled by the refrigerant. Over time, low refrigerant levels can cause overheating and premature failure of the compressor. This will require a complete replacement of the compressor or the entire condensing unit – a very expensive proposition.
The Most Important Step: Clean Your Unit!!! Before Starting your air conditioning system up for the season there are a few things that you should do for preventative maintenance.
1) Condenser Unit, The part of the A/C system that sits outside the home: First before turning on your air conditioning system make sure that the condenser unit is not covered in leaves, sticks, lawn furniture or toys. Next using a pressurized air system or a shop vac turned on the blow feature clean the coils from the inside out removing any leaves that may hve gotten lodged in the coils. Straighten any of the fins that have gotten bent over. Your goal here is to give the condenser as much help as possible in removing hot air air from the coils when the air passes over them.
2) Furnace Filters: The furnace system is the lungs of the home and when your A/C is running the blower for the furnace system is what provides the suction power when pulling the warm air from the return side of the furnace and the blowing power to the supply side of the furnace after the air has been cooled. Keeping your furnace filter clean is a very important and necessary step for the proper operation of a air conditioning system. A clean furnace filter will increase the efficiency of the A/C system and keep the evaporator coils from freezing up by allowing the furnace blower to provide enough air flow. So make sure to replace your disposable filters or clean your electrostatic filters every other month during both cooling and heating seasons.
3) Drain Line: The a-framed evaporator coil sits above the furnace in a shallow pan where a drain line is attached for water run off. This line can become clogged up over time with molds and calcium deposits and should be removed and cleaned to allow for proper drainage. If it is plugged up try using a wire and force the clog out and run a hot water and bleach mixture through the line to remove any molds that have built up. A clogged drain line can lead to the evaporator pan overflowing onto your furnace causing rusting of the furnace system.
4) Blower Fan: The air conditioning system gets it’s air moving power from a “squirrel cage” fan. Even with good filters that are cleaned or replaced frequently these fans become clogged with hair dust and fats that build up on the fans surface. With out a good fan that is capable of moving enough air the A/C system becomes a useless dead weight in your basement.
5) Evaporator Coil: This portion of the cleaning should be left to a professional with the right equipment and knowledge as to not harm your A/C system. The evaporator coil gets filled with dust over time and slows the air flow, slowed air flow leads to the evaporator not being able to get rid of the cold fast enough and the coil will turn to a block of ice and will need to melt before operation of the system is OK again.
Take care of your Air Conditioning System and it will keep you smiling in its cool embrace for many hot Summers to come.