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Do It Yourself (DIY) Central Air Conditioner Maintenance

DIY Air Conditioner Maintenance

Regular cleaning is the most important thing you can do to maintain your air conditioner's effieciency and effectiveness.

A central air conditioner will be comprised of an indoor and an outdoor unit. The indoor unit or evaporator is located in a central duct near the furnace, or in the air handler if you have a heat pump. The noisier outdoor unit, otherwise known as the compressor, sits next to your home allowing for a quieter inside environment. A pair of copper tubes joins these two units together.

Cleaning the Outdoor Compressor

When the Air Conditioner is turned on the refrigerant, or Freon gas, inside the compressor starts off cool but is made hot under pressure. The hot Freon gas then travels through a set of coils where it loses its heat, and condenses into a liquid. This liquid runs through an expansion valve and into the evaporator. In the evaporator the liquid evaporates becoming a cold low-pressure gas, which is what makes the air in your house cold. This cycle repeats itself over and over; the indoor unit cooling the air inside your home and releasing heat through the outdoor unit. During this process your AC unit collects dust and debris on the condenser coil and the evaporator coil.

Start with the outdoor compressor unit.

  1. Begin by shutting off the electrical power to the central air conditioner.
  2. If your electric fan motor has lubrication ports you can apply a few drops of electric motor oil. If the unit doesn't have any lubrication ports skip to the next step.
  3. Wipe any dirt and debris off of the fins, and check the compressor pad for stains. If there are stains this means your AC could be leaking coolant, and it's likely time to call a professional.
  4. Ideally you would clean the coils with an air conditioner cleaner (available from HVAC suppliers) being sure to use gloves and eye protection. Spray the cleaner on and let it set for a short while before hosing the area down with water. If you don't have an air conditioner cleaner available just hosing off any dirt or debris will still improve it's efficiency.

Next clean the indoor evaporator unit.

  1. When cleaning the evaporator make sure you have shut off all electrical power to the AC unit.
  2. If you can reach the evaporator coil, which is usually in a cramped area, vacuum the fins.
  3. Check the furnace filter to see if it is dirty. If it is buy a new one and replace. The cost of a new furnace filter should come out to about $5.
  4. If possible check the condensation tube for sludge and algae. You may have a flexible tube that can easily be pulled off and cleaned at the drain port. If you have a solid plastic tube instead that would need to be have the end cut off to check. If this is so you would ned to get a new cap and the correct adhesive to re-seal.

If you're uncomfortable with any of the steps described above you can have a professional come to your home and take care of the maintenance for you. The service call should run $100-$200 depending upon where you live. If you do call a professional be sure to observe what is done and ask questions so that you are more prepared to keep maintaining the air conditioning system in the future.

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