As an air conditioning installation and service technician for more than a decade, I have formulated a check-list of easy to implement tips (some widely known, some not so much) that could possibly save you big money on unneeded service calls, save money on utility bills and hopefully lengthen the life of your a/c system.
Air flow is very important to how your system works.
Here are a few things you can do to make sure your system is doing what it was designed to do before deciding to call a service company and incurring possibly unnecessary charges.
1. Check to be sure the return air filter is clean.
Replace it monthly. An easy tool to help you remember to change your air filter in time to prohibit loss in air flow, is to change the filter every time you pay your electricity bill. In rural areas, near farms or dirt roads, it may be necessary to change the filter more than once per month to keep your system operating at peak efficiency.
2. Make sure that all vents are free of obstructions:
Placing furniture over floor vents is a big no-no. Floor vents are designed to bounce air from the ceiling in a mushroom pattern in order to fill the room with cooled air efficiently. All too often, complaints about hot-spots in homes, can be directly attributed to obstructed air vents. Overhead vents obviously don’t encounter the same problems of being obstructed.
3. Check for obstructions around the outdoor section of the system.
Make sure that it is also free of obstructions over the discharge fan(s) also make sure there is nothing around the sides of the unit that can impede air getting into the coils. I have found that people use the a/c unit for a shelf to store things, or prop things against etc. Make sure shrubs, vines or other plants don’t grow within two feet of the unit. When cutting your lawn, try to make sure your mower discharge isn’t aimed toward your a/c, effectively slinging grass clippings and dirt into your coils.
4. Have your system cleaned by a reputable a/c company at least once per year.
The ideal amount of times per year to have your a/c cleaned/serviced is twice, if it is a heat/cool combination system. One time for the air conditioning season and one time for the heating season.
The next few items are things you should check before calling a service company to diagnose and repair your system
1. Do a visual check for ice in/on the outdoor section of the system.
Look for ice on the copper lines inside the cabinet, or the lines leaving the system in the case of a split a/c system. If there is ice visible, go immediately to the air filter and make sure it is not overly dirty or possibly stopped up. If it is dirty enough air can’t get through, it is the most likely reason for the ice and the system not working properly. Change the filter and turn the system off until all of the ice you saw is completely gone before restarting the a/c. If it still doesn’t work properly after doing those things, call a reputable a/c service company.
2. Always check circuit breakers before calling a service company.
While service companies normally only charge the minimum service fee for resetting breakers, it is truly, something you can do yourself.
All new homes, and most older homes have multiple places where there are circuit breakers controlling electricity to your air conditioning system. The first and most obvious place to check is in the whole home breaker service panel.
Make sure the circuits labeled a/c (air conditioner), a/h (air handler) and or condenser are all in the on position. If you find one of these tripped into the center or in the off position, reset it to on. If it trips off again, call a reputable a/c service company.
In some a/c systems there will be service disconnects near the system. Check those after you have checked the whole home service panel first. Follow the same technique mentioned above to reset the circuit breaker(s) in the disconnect, and again if the circuit breaker trips again, call your service company.
3. Check the thermostat for batteries.
Almost all digital thermostats use batteries. In some cases, batteries aren’t necessary for it to function, however batteries are installed to maintain programming during power outages. In other cases, batteries are required for the thermostat to operate. In either case, the batteries are an important part of the air conditioning system and if they aren’t changed often enough, can corrode and cause damage to the electronic components, creating the need for a costly repair.
Following the aforementioned tips will certainly add up to some utility bill savings, save you from paying a contractor to come out because the a/c system stopped functioning properly due to a clogged air filter (something we service technicians don’t mind doing, but the price of an air filter is considerably less than the price of a service call) or paying to have someone reset a circuit breaker or replace batteries (again something we technicians don’t mind doing)