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“Summerizing” Your HVAC Unit

When the hot, humid air rolls in each summer, can your HVAC unit handle the heat and keep you cool? What many homeowners and property managers do not realize is that their air conditioner may not actually be operating optimally.

Below is a primer in HVAC care, with some easy fixes that will help your unit run smoothly all summer long.

Get to Know Your A/C

Let’s start with a crash course about how your air conditioner works. Your AC comprises two parts: the condenser unit, which sits outside, and the evaporator unit, which is found indoors. Together, these components remove heat and moisture from the air through refrigeration technology. The air handler then blows the dehumidified and chilled air through the ductwork of your home.

Before You Begin

Some of the repairs necessary to keep your unit running smoothly should be handled by a licensed professional. For example, anything pertaining to the sealed refrigeration system is not a DIY job.

There are also important safety precautions to note before you begin: always turn off the power to the condenser at the service panel. If your unit has a weatherproof disconnect box, turn this off, too. And the furnace often has an additional circuit breaker in the main electrical cabinet that you need to turn off. If you have any questions about whether you have completely shut off the power to your unit, do not make any repairs. Call a professional.

Tips for HVAC Care:

1. Test your system early and beat the rush. We recommend doing all of the suggested repairs listed below and testing your AC before temperatures start to climb. If you wait until summer is in full swing, you may be last in a long line of other customers who also just discovered their AC unit wasn’t working. The peak season for air conditioner repairs runs from late spring through early summer, so if you wait until then, it could be days or even weeks before your unit can be serviced.

2. Change the filters. The air filter’s job is to catch the dirt, dust and particles that flow through your system. It doesn’t take long for those particles to build up, requiring your system to work harder to force air through, which translates to a less efficient system. That’s why it’s imperative to change the filters as often as is recommended by your HVAC’s manufacturer.

3. Clean your unit. Sometimes all you need to help your HVAC unit run more efficiently is a little elbow grease. Remove debris and moisture from the base of your condenser. Give the fan blades a wipe down with a cloth. Add the manufacturer-recommended oil to the fan motor’s oil ports. And remove any debris that obstructs airflow through the condenser unit.

4. Clear the condenser coils. Unscrew and remove the side and top panels from the condenser. Use a refrigerator comb to gently clean the coils, being careful not to bend them.

5. Protect the coolant lines. The tubes between the evaporator to the condenser are usually covered with insulation to preserve energy. If any insulation is missing, replace it by installing a foam insulation sleeve or insulation tape.

6. Check the age of your HVAC unit. Almost half of the energy use in a typical American home comes from running the heating and air conditioning. As the system ages, it becomes less efficient and, therefore, more costly. If your unit is more than 15 years old, consider upgrading to a new, energy-efficient model.

Follow these easy tips every spring to guarantee a cool summer. And remember, always call a licensed professional for repairs, unless you are absolutely sure that you know what you’re doing!