Getting Ready for Air Conditioning Season

I have to admit that even though most of us did not experience a typical winter, I’m happy to see mild temperatures return so I can spend more time outside.  Although it’s not my favorite thing to do, I know part of my time outside will be getting the yard and landscaping back into shape.  In addition to dealing with the stray leaves, twigs, and debris that have somehow settled around the foundation of the house and landscaping, this is also when I remove the condenser cover on my A/C unit and do some routine maintenance to make sure my A/C will be ready when I need it.

Many people try to hide their outdoor condenser with landscaping, lattice, and vegetation.  To make sure your A/C or Heat Pump is working at peak efficiency, however, make sure there is approximately 18”-24” of clearance around the perimeter of the condenser so the unit can easily pull air through the condenser coil.  This also makes the unit a lot easier to maintain and service.

To clean the condenser coil, you want to start by shutting-off the power at the main breaker or at the outdoor disconnect.  Next, you can rinse the inside and outside of the condenser coil and fins with water and clean by using either a degreaser or coil cleaner spray (offered at some home centers).  If using a brush with soapy water, you want to make sure you are carefully brushing parallel to the fin direction to make sure you don’t bend the fins and rinse.  Many of the coil cleaner sprays are easy to use – just spray the cleaner on the outer coil surface and let it set for a few minutes to let the foam penetrate the surfaces and rinse.

After the condenser is completely dry, you can use an automotive wax on the cabinet if desired to keep the unit looking new longer.  My condenser cabinet is similar to the one pictured, so I just focus on the painted top surface and grill and it’s a quick job.  Some condenser cabinets, however, are louvered and will take a little longer.  I understand this part of the maintenance routine isn’t for everyone, but since the condenser is constantly exposed to the elements, including salt air along the coast, the unit is eventually going to start looking weathered.  This step can prolong the attractiveness of the condenser housing.

Changing your air filter is an often overlooked basic homeowner’s maintenance item and can help to avoid problems leading to unnecessary service calls.  The blower motor on most furnaces typically moves more air faster in cooling mode so you want to check/change your air filter regularly to ensure the blower motor doesn’t run longer or work harder to cool your house.  In extreme cases, a really dirty air filter can cause the indoor evaporator coil to ice-up to the point where there is no air flow through the registers even though the blower of the furnace and the outdoor condenser are operating.

Now it’s time to reward yourself with a cold beverage and relax knowing that you’re A/C system will be ready when the hot weather arrives.

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