How to Maintain Your Central Air Conditioning System and Troubleshoot Problems
Simple Tips for Keeping Your Air Conditioning in Top Shape
This project was done in collaboration with Trane Air Conditioning Systems, by whom I have been compensated to produce the video and article, and to render my honest opinions, observations and experiences. For more information about the air conditioner seen in this video, please visit this web page.
Anatomy of a Central Air Conditioning System
Central air conditioning systems are made up of two main components: an indoor air handler and an outdoor condenser. The air handler’s job is to remove heat from the inside of the house and circulate cool air throughout the home. The condenser’s task is to discharge the hot air collected by the air handler outdoors.
Can I Really Do My Own Maintenance?
Absolutely, simple routine maintenance will keep your air conditioner operating at top efficiency, reduce the need for service calls and extend the life of your unit.
Keeping the Outdoor Condenser in Good Shape
The condenser needs good air flow to do its job properly. So, it’s important to remove any leaves, twigs or other debris that might obstruct air movement or find their way inside the unit. Also, make sure bushes and other foliage are trimmed back so they’re at least two feet from the condenser. Remove any obstructions that are nearby or leaning against the air intake fins. A note of caution here … don’t spray water directly into the condenser fins to clean them. This can drive dirt and debris into the condenser coil inside reducing its ability to function properly.
Caring for the Indoor Air Handler
Regularly checking the filter in the air handler is, without question, the most important maintenance tasks you can do on your own. Some filters are replaceable while others are intended to be cleaned using a vacuum and/or garden hose. Dirty filters can reduce air flow and keep the air conditioner from cooling properly.
In fact, A clogged or dirty air filter is the most common reason a central air conditioning system fails to do its job. Additional clues that a filter needs cleaning or replacement include low air flow from vents, ice on refrigerant lines, and water in the condensate drip pan.
Check Thermostat Batteries
Many modern thermostats are battery powered. Replace batteries once a year or when the low battery indicator appears on the digital panel.
Troubleshooting You Can Do Before Calling the Repair Technician
Check your thermostat’s mode switch. Oftentimes its unintentionally set to “heat” or “off”. I know this sounds obvious, but service technicians say that often they arrive to find the switch set to the wrong position.
Check your breaker panel. If the breaker for the air conditioning system is tripped, reset it. If it trips again right away, don’t reset it a second time since there may be a short in the circuit. Call a qualified electrician or air conditioning specialist to troubleshoot the problem.
Sometimes the air conditioning system is running, but the air coming out of the vents is warm rather than cool. This is often caused by restricted air flow. Check the air vents to make sure they are not blocked. The most likely culprit, though, is the air filter.
A Professional Checkup Once a Year
Among other things, a qualified technician will check refrigerant levels, inspect and tighten electrical connections, test electronic components, inspect and, if necessary, clear condensate drains, clean or replace filters, test emergency shutoff switches and verify proper thermostat operation.
Modern central air conditioning systems, like the Trane unit I installed in my home a few years ago, are more energy efficient than ever and remarkably reliable and trouble-free provided they receive regular care and maintenance.