May 2007 Edition 

Air Conditioning Maintenance

Our air conditioning condenser is covered with dirt and leaves. We were wondering how we should maintain the condenser, and what else should we do to the system to keep it working properly?           
It is getting to be that time of the year when we switch on the air conditioning. All systems should be maintained to ensure proper operation and efficiency. A dirty system will make air conditioning work harder which will cost you more energy and more dollars to operate.           
An air conditioner's filters, coils, and fins require regular maintenance for the unit to function effectively and efficiently throughout its years of service.

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Neglecting necessary maintenance ensures a steady decline in air conditioning performance while energy use steadily increases. 
Air Conditioner Filters           
The most important maintenance task that will ensure the efficiency of your air conditioner is to routinely replace or clean the filters. Clogged, dirty filters block normal air flow and reduce a system's efficiency significantly. With normal air flow obstructed, air that bypasses the filter may carry dirt directly into the evaporator coil and impair the coil's heat-absorbing capacity. Keeping the filter clean can lower your air conditioner's energy consumption by 5%–15%.           
For central air conditioners, filters are generally located somewhere along the return duct's length. Common filter locations are in walls, ceilings, furnaces, or in the air conditioner itself. Room air conditioners have a filter mounted in the grill that faces into the room.           
Some types of filters are reusable; others must be replaced. They are available in a variety of types and efficiencies. Clean or replace your air conditioning system's filter or filters every month or two during the cooling season. Filters may need more frequent attention if the air conditioner is in constant use, is subjected to dusty conditions, or you have fur-bearing pets in the house. A good rule of thumb is the cheaper the filter, the less it will remove debris from the air. A high efficiency filter will cost approximately $50.00 to replace, but it will filter out 97% of the dust and pollen from the air and is the perfect solution for people with allergies. You can say “you get what you pay for.” 
Air Conditioner Coils           
The air conditioner's evaporator coil and condenser coil collect dirt over their months and years of service. A clean filter prevents the evaporator coil from soiling quickly. In time, however, the evaporator coil will still collect dirt. This dirt reduces air flow and insulates the coil, reducing its ability to absorb heat. To avoid this problem, check your evaporator coil every year and clean it as necessary.

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Outdoor condenser coils can also become very dirty if the outdoor environment is dusty or if there is foliage nearby. You can easily see the condenser coil and notice if dirt is collecting on its fins.           
You should minimize dirt and debris near the condenser unit. Your dryer vents, falling leaves, and lawn mower are all potential sources of dirt and debris. Cleaning the area around
the coil, removing any debris, and trimming foliage back at least 2 feet (0.6 meters) allow for adequate air flow around the condenser.
 
Coil Fins           
The aluminum fins on evaporator and condenser coils are easily bent and can block air flow through the coil. Air conditioning wholesalers sell a tool called a "fin comb" that will comb these fins back into nearly original condition. 
Condensate Drains           
The condensate drain carries water away from the evaporator. Occasionally the pipe stops up with deposits. When this happens, water will drip from the evaporator into the metal safety drain pan under the furnace. If you see this happening, you will need to clean out the piping. Pull the pipe apart and pass a stiff wire through the piping. Clogged drain channels prevent a unit from reducing humidity, and the resulting excess moisture may discolor walls or carpet. Some drain pipes have traps or round sections of piping. Pour bleach into the traps to remove deposits. Be careful when you do this because the bleach will run down the pipe to the outside of the house. Only use a small amount.           
It is a good idea to have the system cleaned by a professional at least once a year. They can pull the blower to clean the fins and oil the bearings if needed. By keeping the system clean and properly maintained, your system will work at its top efficiency and reduce your cooling bills. 

Source: U.S. Department of Energy 


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Prudential Georgia Realty

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