Don’t we love air conditioners? Imagine staying in an apartment without air condition in the scorching May weather. Sadly, we often forget servicing the air conditioner during our regular maintenance routines. An ineffective cooling unit needs to work twice as hard to keep you cool and this comes with a large monthly energy bill.
Homeowners should ensure that the check their cooling systems to ensure that they’re in top condition. In fact, a properly maintained system could outlive your house. Here are five air conditioning service routines you should be familiar with. You’ll be using a screwdriver most of the times. However, hire an expert if do-it-yourself crafts aren’t your cup of tea.
1. Know when to top up aircon gas
There are mixed views on this. Many people think that air conditioning units need to be topped up with Freon (the refrigerant) gas regularly the same way we refill engine oil in cars. They’re all wrong. Ideally, the cooling gas should never be refilled or replaced. It’s never used up. If you notice that there’s a low gas level in unit, then there must be leaks. Do not refill the gas before sealing the leak.
Newer air conditioners rarely have leaks. Older units, on the other hand, use bolted fittings that tend to get loose as a result of vibrations. These movements cause leakages that may end up in permanent damage to your unit if left unfixed.
2. Cleaning the filter
There are two type of air filter units – reusable ones and replaceable ones. This is arguably the most important maintenance routine. The filer should be cleaned (or replaced) once every two months. Air filters may be installed at different locations. Start by checking the return grill in your living room. Many installers prefer to fit it here because of the ease of access. If it’s not here then it must be near your furnace or close to the air blower compartment.
Ensure that you remove all dirt and dust particles. In addition to decreasing your system’s efficiency, they house harmful pathogens that may trigger allergies. If you’re living with an asthma patient, make a point of cleaning the filter monthly.
3. Double-check the wiring
First things first, ensure that that the ventilation circuit is switched off. If you’re unable to find this circuit on your consumer unit, hit the main switch instead. It’s safer in fact.
Then, find your condensing unit and open the access panel. You may or may not need a screwdriver depending on the exact model. Consult the manufacturer’s manual for specific instructions. Are there any visible signs of overheating? You may not know what’s wrong but you’ll recognize a fault when you see one. Consult an electrician if you see blackened wires, dark wires or missing insulation.
If you own a fluke, have fun ensuring that all capacitors are discharging as they should. Look at the electrical connections and give them a slight push to confirm that they’re secured in place. Electrical fires and electrocutions are nasty surprises you want to avoid. Before fitting the access panel, take one final look and see if there’s excessive pitting. This is how overheating starts. Seek assistance from a qualified air condition experts if you’re sceptical of your workmanship.
4. Check the thermostat
This is the sensor’ that determines what temperature the AC works at. If your home has a mechanical thermostat, consider getting a programmable one. They are both reliable and durable. With a programmable thermostat, you can schedule your AC to start warming your house thirty minutes before you get there.
This is a neat trick to ensuring that the air conditioner goes off as soon as you leave for work and gets up thirty minutes before you’re home. You always come home to a comfortable, inviting house without having to leave your AC running when there ’s no one around.
5. Check for clogging in the condenser unit fan
Start by turning off your air conditioner. Go to the condenser unit. It’s the big white box outside. You may need a ladder to gain access. Check if all blades are present on the fan. Give it a slight push. If you hear creaking sounds, apply grease to the brushes before they wear out due to friction. Replace the fan blades when you see signs of chipping or cracking.
Older generation fan motors need to be oiled twice as often. Thankfully, they are easier to disassemble.
6. Manually clean the outside unit
Get a soft brush, soapy water, an old rag and put on your get-to-work shorts. You are going to scrub off grass clippings, leaves, dead bugs and dust from the outside unit. Physical debris blocks air flow reducing the system’s efficiency. Stubborn dirt usually accumulates on the fan grill. You may need to use a cleaning solution.
You may use a garden house when rinsing the external walls. However, never use power washers as they’re too powerful. Those fins on the coil are fragile. Exercise caution. Trim any vegetation that’s close to the unit. They may be interfering with the air intake.
7. Gently clean the evaporator coils
They are dust magnets. Dirt, dust and debris stick to them. They act as insulators reducing the coil’s cooling capacity. Have them cleaned annually and you’re good to go.
8. Cover the compressor unit when it’s not in use
In Singapore, air conditioners are rarely switched on during the cold months. If you have an outside fitted air conditioning unit, cover it up with a large cloth or rag. It will act as a physical barrier keeping dust particles and dirt from accumulating on your compressor unit.
9. Have professionals service your unit regularly
Heating professionals advise that you should have your cooling system serviced twice a year. There is a hot debate on whether this is essential or it’s a marketing gimmick they devised to keep them in business. Save yourself the headaches and let them ensure that all parts of the AC are working as they should. You will have peace of mind (and save a few repair bucks too)