Your Yearly AC Checklist

It’s a slow day in the office and not a one of us here can really focus on our research. The weather is beautiful outside. The sun is shining, there’s a few little clouds drifting lazily in the endless blue sky. The birds are chirping and going after a feeder dangling lazily from a window across the street. I’d drag my computer outside and work from the sidewalk, but Lead Salesman Scott said he’d take my spot by the AC vent. Ah, right, the AC. We should get ready to turn that on.

A Long, Harsh Winter

Your air conditioner works hard all summer and gets to relax for the winter. Except that it doesn’t. The winter is perhaps the harshest time for your air conditioner, when it’ll have some of the highest risks of taking damage. All summer long, if something’s gone wrong, you’ll notice and get it fixed. In the winter? Not so much. Ice could crack a coil, debris could block up the coils and fans, a seal could fail, a rat could chew through some wires, and more could go wrong. We believe in preventative care as much as possible.

Your HVAC Professional should do most of the work of inspecting your air conditioner, BUT there is a little bit you can do. Primarily speaking, you should clear all the dirt, debris, leaves, and other things away from the condenser unit. Keeping this area clear will improve air flow and reduce the amount of work the air conditioner needs to do. It’ll make things run smoother and longer. Sweep everything away with brooms and rakes until nothing is around the air conditioner. If you have bushes or plants nearby, it may be necessary to trim them.

Inside the house, you can change all of your filters and inspect any duct work for leaks. This can be done by feeling around the ducts while air is running through them (if your furnace and air conditioner share the duct work, otherwise, this has to wait until after the unit is inspected). If you find a leak, you can use various repair tapes and kits to seal it off and avoid heating or air conditioning unoccupied spaces.

The Parts You Shouldn’t Do

Your HVAC Professional should handle everything around your condenser, evaporator, and other equipment. The condenser is going to be the most likely place for things to break. The evaporator is indoors, protected from the elements, and therefore subjected to significantly less damaging forces over its lifetime.

The first step in any inspection and maintenance procedure is to power down the unit. There should be a breaker or shut off box near the air conditioner. Your contractor will start by cutting power to the unit. Next, they’ll likely remove the unit’s casing and start to check inside for debris, damage, and other issues.

  • Check the belt’s condition, replace if worn.
  • Remove dirt/debris from inside the case.
  • Check the electronics for any visible signs of wear. Capacitors are particularly easy to check, they’ll leak corrosive fluid if they’ve failed entirely.
  • Check the system pressure to ensure it hasn’t leaked.
  • Look for cracks, failed seals, and failed joints.

If everything checks out, the system can be powered on, but you’re not out of the woods yet. If the unit starts up, but does not perform correctly, deeper examinations may be necessary. Components like compressors and control boards can’t be entirely tested visually. If the unit is having issues, there might be some further testing.

  • Use a volt meter to check the electrical components for failure.
  • Test individual parts for failures.
  • Check other equipment, like the thermostats and zone controllers.

This may also be a good opportunity to have the coils cleaned, we’ve talked about that before. It’s a good procedure to improve operating efficiency. It won’t do anything for a newly-installed unit, but once a system is 1-2 years old, it’ll have some significant buildup.

Lasting Benefits

By cleaning and inspecting your system at the start of each season, you’ll ensure yourself a headache-free summer. Most major equipment failures will have warning signs now. If a coil is at-risk of failure, there’ll be rust or corrosion where it’ll fail at. If a capacitor is nearing a failure point, there’s a good chance its top will be bulged out. If you know something is wrong now, you can take action to prevent it from causing damage and inconvenience later.

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