DIY Air Conditioner Maintenance

One of the best ways to ensure your home stays cool and comfortable during hot summer months, is to ensure that the air conditioner is regularly serviced. To do this, you can either pay a HVAC technician to come out and service the unit, or you can do it yourself. Yes, you can perform basic air conditioner maintenance on your own, even if you know nothing about how the system works. There are no special tools required.

The procedures we have listed below are for a basic central air conditioner. These systems have two main components – The condenser and the evaporator. The condenser is the outside unit, typically located at the back of the house. The evaporator is located inside the house.

Identify the workable parts – Before we continue, take a moment and look over this photo illustrating the basic parts of an air conditioning system. Of course, your unit may vary slightly from the one shown, thus, if you have the owner’s manual, consult it first to help navigate.

DIY Air Conditioner Maintenance (Exterior)

Turn the power off – We’ll begin serving the air conditioner outside at the condenser. Located near the unit itself is the power supply, typically found inside a small metal box. Flip the switch to the ‘off’ position. Some models may require you to remove the block shutoff, instead.

Clear the area around the unit – Remove long grass, leaf debris, and other objects that may be obstructing the flow of air to the unit.

Vacuum the fins – The fins, which are not shown in the illustration provided, are the small slits that line the exterior of the condenser. They resemble the same slits that surround an air filter for an automobile. They can be easily bent or damaged, and should be handled carefully. Vacuum them with a soft brush attachment to remove grass, dirt, and other small debris.

Repair bent fins – Straighten fins that have bent with a small dinner knife.

Clean inside the unit – The fan, located on top of the condenser, can be unscrewed, lifted out and set to the side. Once it is removed, you can reach in with your hand and remove any large debris. It can also be vacuumed with a soft brush attachment. Replace the fan when finished.

Check the coolant level – This is an air conditioner maintenance task that is best left to the professionals. Contact a HVAC technician near you to ensure there is enough coolant to get you through the summer.

DIY Air Conditioner Maintenance (Interior)

Turn the power off – Turn the power off at the main panel.

Vacuum the exterior – The evaporator inside the house is a dust magnet. The dust and dirt that collects around it can prevent air from flowing freely through the filter. Use a soft bristled attachment to gently vacuum the unit’s exterior, especially near the outside of the filter.

Vacuum the blower – Unscrew and open the blower compartment and vacuum inside the unit itself. Be sure to vacuum the dust and dirt off the fans, too.

Replace the filter – Every system has a filter, which should be replaced several times a year. Learn more about locating and replacing the filter.

Now, you can turn both units on to restore power. Check your owner’s manual to ensure special steps are not required to restart the compressor.

More from Jennifer Wagner:

Simple home maintenance projects for spring

Save time and money with preventative home maintenance

Affordable ways to keep your house cool this summer


Personal experience

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