Air conditioner (AC) maintenance doesn't take a lot of time, and it can save you from problems and expense later on if you keep up with it. Much of the work is done by an HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) technician every year, so all that's left for you is to ensure air can flow through the unit properly. Here are some tips for doing that.
Keep An Eye On The Outdoor Unit
The part of the AC that sits outside on a concrete pad needs unrestricted airflow around it. Make sure weeds or bushy tree branches don't start to crowd it and block airflow. The best approach is to create a border around the unit with gravel or pavers so nothing can grow close to it, then you won't have to worry about weeds being a problem. Also, make sure your kids know not to play around the AC and place things on top of it. Throwing a beach towel over it so the towel can dry quickly might seem like a good idea, but that will block airflow through the AC and lead to problems.
Also, keep an eye on the fins. These are the thin layers of metal along the outside cage of the condenser. They bend easily, and if you bump them with a riding mower or damage them in another way, they can close off airflow. Keep a fin comb around so you can straighten them back out when necessary.
Keep The Inside Unit Free From Dust
You probably know you're supposed to change the filter regularly, but you may not realize how important this small task is. If you don't change the filter, a layer of dust forms on it. This is problematic because the dust restricts airflow through the indoor air handler. This can cause various problems, such as inefficient operation and overheating. Dust from the filter can even work its way inside the air handler and coat the coils, which can cause the coils to freeze over.
Besides changing the filter once a month or as directed by your AC manual, you should also keep dust off of the unit as much as possible. This is easy to do with quick dusting with a cloth or with a vacuum wand. The internal parts of the AC need to be cleaned too, but the HVAC technician will do this as part of their annual AC maintenance.
If you notice your AC isn't keeping you cool or that it's making unusual noises, the first thing to look for is something that's causing airflow problems. Check the filter, the outdoor unit, and the indoor unit for something that's blocking airflow. If you fix the problem quickly, you might prevent damage to your air conditioner that needs an emergency service call to repair.