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When it comes to maintaining a comfortable home, air conditioning is the backbone during the hot summer months and the cold winter ones. In order to continue this balance throughout the years, regular maintenance for your air conditioner is essential. However, it’s not uncommon for many homeowners to be unaware of how maintenance should be performed and how frequently. That’s why this comprehensive guide will reveal the factors that influence the frequency of air conditioner maintenance, while also providing recommendations for keeping your AC unit in tip-top shape.
Factors Affecting Maintenance Frequency
The regularity in which maintenance on your air conditioning unit needs to be conducted can depend on various factors. Being aware of each of these factors and how they may affect each other and your home can help you determine the best course of action and frequency when it comes to air conditioner maintenance.
Type of Air Conditioner
The model of your air conditioning unit, as well as how it is installed in your home, can greatly affect how often maintenance is required. While most air conditioner brands provide recommendations for how frequently maintenance is needed, you can also determine how soon your AC should be looked over by their general type:
- Central Air Conditioning System: Central AC units, regardless of their brand or yearly make, typically require annual maintenance. This should be conducted before the cooling season begins as that is the period of time where the AC will be in most use. It also ensures the unit operates to maximum efficiently and provides consistent cooling throughout your home.
- Window or Portable Units: Smaller windows or portable air conditioners generally don’t require annual maintenance due to their size. However, a quick inspection and clean at least once a season will remove dust and debris that can clog filters and affect performance.
Beyond the air conditioner type, the very climate in which you live usually plays a significant role in determining the frequency of AC maintenance. In regions with harsh, long summers, air conditioners work harder and may need more frequent maintenance to cope with the workload. Without a regular clean and assessment, you may find your AC is not providing consistent flow or cold enough temperatures.
In turn, households located in areas with high humidity levels may require more attention towards their air conditioners as the units have a higher chance of gathering mould and mildew within the unit. To prevent these particles from being spread across your home, or affecting your AC’s performance, regular maintenance is required during the muggier seasons.
It may seem obvious, but the frequency and length of your air conditioner’s usage can impact maintenance needs. If your AC runs continuously throughout the summer, it may need more frequent maintenance than one used sparingly.
Your air conditioner contains an air filter that requires regular maintenance due to its necessity in the operation of your unit. Therefore, the type of filter your unit contains can alter how frequent maintenance is needed. For example, disposable filters typically need replacement every 1-3 months, while reusable filters should be cleaned at a higher rate of monthly.
Age of the System
Age greatly affects not only the performance of an air conditioner, but also the amount of time and frequency needed on maintenance. Older units require more frequent maintenance to keep them operating efficiently. In contrast, newer, well-maintained systems need far less attention.
Routine Maintenance Tasks
Now that we know what factors can affect the frequency of maintenance for air conditioners, let’s delve into how one can keep their unit in optimal condition. The following routine maintenance tasks can be done by hand or with help from a professional, depending on the owner’s comfort levels and the complexity of the task at hand:
Replace or Clean Filters
One of the most common tasks to first perform if you notice a decrease in your air conditioner’s performance is checking the air filters. Dirty or clogged filters restrict airflow and reduce your AC’s efficiency, creating a need to replace them if they are disposable, or clean them if they are reusable. Disposable replacement schedules are generally determined by the manufacturer (1-3 months), whereas reusable filters should be cleaned monthly.
Clean the Condenser and Evaporator Coils
The filter is not the only component that gets dirty in an AC unit. Dust and debris can also settle on the unit’s coils over time, reducing their heat transfer capabilities. Clean the coils annually or more frequently if you notice reduced cooling efficiency.
Check and Clean Condensate Drain Lines
Pre-emptive maintenance of an air conditioner’s drain lines can prevent internal damage from occurring. This is because drain lines can be prone to clogging, causing water to back up and damage the internal mechanisms of a system. Be sure to inspect and clean the condensate drain line annually or as needed to prevent blockages.
Inspect Refrigerant Levels
It is necessary to bring in a professional HVAC technician if you notice your air conditioner’s cooling capacity has reduced due to low refrigerant levels. Experienced hands are needed for this inspection and recharge process, which is is typically done every 2-3 years but can vary due to system age and usage.
Inspect Electrical Connections
Always be sure to perform an annual assessment of AC units’ electrical conections, as loose or damaged ones can pose safety hazards and affect system performance. Inspect and tighten connections as needed, or call in a professional for more severe cases.
Lubricate Moving Parts
Simply lubricating motor bearings and other moving parts inside an air conditioner can reduce friction and extend its life. Most manufacturers recommend to do this once a year.
Check and Calibrate Thermostat
Innacurate thermostats can lead to air conditioners providing inefficient cooling. Annual testing and calibration can ensure such an issue does not arise.
Examine and Clean Blower Components
Dismantling an AC unit annually can allow you to oversee the wear and tear of internal components such as the blower assembly, motor, and fan. Worn parts can be replaced as necessary.
Professional Maintenance vs. DIY
While most of the previously discussed routine maintenance tasks can be performed by a homeowner, it should be noted that professional intervention is just as necessary. More so in cases of severe issues. Annual checks from such professionals will allow for more comprehensive inspections, adjustments, and cleaning, such as the services on offer from prominent Australian air conditioning repair experts.
Further reasons as for why professional maintenance is crucial includes:
- Expertise: HVAC technicians don’t require a manual or trial and error to assess an air conditioner. Rather, they have the knowledge and experience to identify potential issues and address them before they become major problems.
- Safety: Some maintenance tasks, such as handling refrigerant, electrical components, and other complex parts of your air conditioner, can be dangerous without the proper training and equipment. That’s why a professional is better suited in these cases.
- Efficiency: Professional maintenance ensures that your system operates at peak efficiency, which is not always a guarantee when done by your own hand. Hiring a professional can even save you money on energy bills and prolong the life of your AC unit.
- Warranty Preservation: Some manufacturers require regular professional maintenance to maintain your system’s warranty. Skipping this requirement may void your warranty.
Signs Your AC Needs Immediate Attention
While routine maintenance is integral to an air conditioner’s performance, pressing issues can suddenly arise at any moment. That’s why it’s crucial to be vigilant for signs that your air conditioner needs immediate attention:
- Warm Air: If you’re attempting to cool your home, and the air flow is stubbornly remaining warm, you may have a refrigerant leak, a faulty compressor, or another significant issue.
- Poor Airflow: Inconsistent or reduced airflow can result from clogged filters, duct obstructions, or a malfunctioning blower.
- Unusual Noises: Strange sounds, such as grinding, banging, or squealing, can signify worn or damaged components.
- Frequent Cycling: When cycling is remaining consistent, and is instead turning on and off without reason or rhythm, it may be a sign of a malfunctioning thermostat or a problem with the system’s electrical components.
- High Humidity: Effective AC’s remove humidity, so when this function is not running as intended, it may be time for maintenance or an upgrade.
- Water Leaks: Water pooling around the indoor or outdoor unit can indicate clogged drain lines or refrigerant issues.
- Foul Odors: Musty or foul odours may suggest mould or mildew growth within the unit or ductwork.
- Rising Energy Bills: A sudden increase in energy bills without a corresponding increase in usage can indicate the unit is not operating as efficiently as possible.
Truely, the frequency of air conditioner maintenance cannot be determined by one factor. Rather, aspects like its filter, its usage, and the surrounding climate can affect the necessity of maintenance. By staying proactive and recognising signs of trouble, you can keep your air conditioner in excellent condition, extend its lifespan, and enjoy optimal temperatures throughout the year. By prioritising the maintenance of your air conditioner, you will be rewarded with reliable, efficient cooling year after year.
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