You probably do not give your central air conditioning system a second thought during the summer months. You just enjoy adjusting the thermostat on a hot day to get that nice cool air to come out of the vents. You should have a professional do an annual inspection and maintenance check, but there are things you can do to clean your central air conditioner to keep it running at peak efficiency.
Cleaning the Outdoor Condenser Unit
Your central air conditioner has an evaporator coil (the cold side) inside your home that is likely installed above or next to your forced-air furnace. The condenser unit is outside. It has a large fan and a large surface area of aluminum fins that small pipes run through. A metal housing helps protect the internal components.
This unit is exposed to the elements and wildlife. The area around it should not be blocked by vegetation. This is the hot side of the AC unit. The better the heat exchange with the outside air, the better your system will operate. Remove leaf and other debris, and rinse the metal fins with a garden hose. The aluminum fins are delicate, so do not use a pressure washer.
Keeping the Evaporator Coil Clean
The cold side of your central air conditioning system is the evaporator coil installed inside your home. In most installations it sits right on top of a forced-air furnace inside the main air duct. The blower that moves the air for your furnace is usually the same one that blows the cool air of your AC system in the summer. Therefore, you should change your air filters at least once every 30 days.
Contrary to popular belief, the more efficient the filter, the more often it should be changed. They get clogged quickly, causing a reduction in air flow. In the winter, a reduction in air flow can cause the high-temperature limit switch to burn out in your furnace. In the summer, a reduced air flow caused by a clogged air filter can result in condensation freezing on your evaporator coil. The resulting ice build-up can completely block the flow of air over the coils. Dirt and low refrigerant levels can also cause evaporator coils to freeze.
If you have not been diligent about keeping your central air system clean, you should make an appointment with a professional air conditioning repair service to have the system inspected and cleaned. Professionals can access the evaporator coil indoors to manually clean the coils. Professionals also have access to a special chemical that can dissolve years of grime built up on the coils of outdoor condensing units, giving new life to old AC systems. A service call today can often restore old air conditioning systems to like-new performance and prevent a major breakdown that can leave you sweating during the hottest days of summer.