Your air conditioner is like many things in your home: you don’t think a thing about it until it stops working and causes inconvenience. To ensure your air conditioner keeps running smoothly there are some basic and easy things you can do to prolong its life. We’ll start with what you should do, and end with what you shouldn’t do, which could result in more air conditioning maintenance over time.
What to Do for Air Conditioning Maintenance
Do change or check your filter monthly. The filter on your air conditioner is very important for the efficiency of the unit. Living in Colorado means dealing with at least a solid month of dense tree pollen floating in the air, as well as dust from our very dry conditions. Add to that the wildfires that have raged the last few summers and put an incredible amount of smoke into the air. All of that pollen, dust, and smoke will clog up a filter quickly.
Air conditioners are all about air flow, so replacing a dirty filter keeps the air flowing and your home comfortable. Checking your filter monthly is a basic air conditioning maintenance task that will keep your unit working smoothly.
Do shut all basement vents in the summer. Basements, especially ones below-grade, tend to be much cooler than the upper levels. There’s usually no need to put air-conditioned air in the basement as it’s just a waste. It’s ok to shut the air vents in the basement during the summer when you’re running your air conditioner. Don’t confuse the blowing air vents with the cold air return vents though. The return vents (located on the side of the walls) need to remain unblocked. See more on this in the Don’ts list below.
Do get air conditioning maintenance service once a year. It’s always best to be ahead of any issues with your air conditioner. An expert technician will be able to spot any minor issues or needed adjustments right away, ensuring proper performance and reducing nuisance failures. Learn about our air conditioning maintenance and repair services.
Do check the batteries in your thermostat. Is your air conditioner not coming on? Always check the batteries in your thermostat first, and you may solve the problem with fresh batteries!
Do have a plan to replace your air conditioner if it’s over 15 years old. At this age, an air conditioner unit is running on borrowed time. Systems typically begin leaking after this point. The longer you push it, you will be paying for repairs more often, and run the risk of the unit going out when you most need it. Learn about our expert air conditioner replacement and installation.
What Not to Do to Your Air Conditioner
Never, ever add refrigerant! The refrigerant inside an air conditioner isn’t like a fuel, the system doesn’t consume it. Once refrigerant is in there you shouldn’t ever have to add any to ‘top it off’. If it’s low, it’s because it’s leaking out. The current refrigerant approved for air conditioner use (410A, or Puron) has global warming potential even though it’s less harmful to the environment than its predecessor, R22. If a homeowner adds more than is necessary in the unit, they are introducing the refrigerant to the atmosphere. In fact, there are laws against using refrigerant improperly. If your air conditioner is not cooling as well as before have a technician look to see if it’s leaking refrigerant.
Don’t turn your thermostat below 70 degrees. There are three different types of refrigerant: high, medium, and low temperature refrigerant. For home air conditioners, high temperature is used, or it’s sometimes known as “refrigeration for human comfort”. The lowest inside temperature meant for high temperature refrigerant is 70 degrees, with 68 degrees being the absolute threshold.
Your food refrigerator uses medium temperature refrigerant. The different refrigerant types involve different sealing and ways the unit using it are built. Home air conditioners are not designed for medium temperature refrigeration so keep your air conditioner working the way it should by keeping your home at 70 degrees or above.
Don’t continue to use your air conditioner when it’s malfunctioning. This is important not only because it affects how long you will go without cool air, but it can lead to further damage. If an air conditioner is not working or blowing air but it’s left on and it’s still trying to work, the technician will arrive to a near block of ice and will have to turn it off and return once it’s thawed out. Then you only have to wait longer in a hot house. Additionally, leaving it running when it’s not working properly can prolong damage. Initially, it may have been a minor repair, but leaving it running while something isn’t working can cause failure to a larger component, and be a more costly repair.
Don’t block or eliminate return vents. Because most houses in the Denver area didn’t used to have air conditioning, the ductwork found in most older homes is geared more towards heating. It wasn’t until about 2010 that houses were built with air conditioning ductwork as a priority.
The key thing to acknowledge with cooling a home is the return ducts. Ensure all your return vents (found on the side of walls) are clear of furniture and unblocked so you can at least maximize what you have. If they are covered up, there may not be enough return air to cool the house properly.
Don’t expect your house to cool down quickly. If your air conditioner hasn’t been working and your house already has a heat mass in there it’s going to take a while for the temperature to come down once the unit is up and running again. In general, a home will cool at a rate of about one to two degrees an hour.
Don’t cover your air conditioner in the winter. It’s easy to forget that your air conditioner is covered up. If you fire up your air come summer and the unit runs with the cover on, you’ll be looking at serious repairs or even replacement. Or, think about the fact that you aren’t always the only one using that thermostat. If you have a house sitter or cleaning service and they decide to turn on the air conditioning, they won’t think to check if the cover is off from the winter.
If you’re going to cover the air conditioner whether to keep it looking nice, or to better protect the motor, here’s a tip: turn the unit off at the breaker. Then, when you go to turn on your air the next year and nothing happens, you will remember the breaker, and why you did that.