Performing air conditioning maintenance and inspection for homeowners doesn’t have to be a big, problematic, difficult ordeal, but it can help in a big way with your indoor air quality. If you simply follow along with this guide, checking out your home’s air conditioning unit can be a breeze.

Throughout the United States, A home’s central air-conditioning system should occasionally be checked as well as maintained to keep it in proper working order. While an annual inspection of your heat pump systems or ac systems done by a trained expert is advised, homeowners can do a lot of the work themselves by following the broad outline of steps contained in this guide.

Following this guide, you will only need to have a home inspection if there is a larger issue and you require a more in-depth HVAC inspection, or for your annual home maintenance inspection!

What is a Heat Pump

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Clean the Exterior Condenser Unit and Components

The air conditioning condenser unit, aka the heat pump, is the large box typically found on the exterior side of the home. A heat pump works by essentially pushing, or “PUMPing”, heat from the interior of the structure to the exterior.

This process collects and transfers heat from the air that has built up in the ac system, directing it from inside the home to outside the home. Within the package are coils of pipelines that are surrounded by thousands of metal “fins” that allow the coils extra area for heat exchange.

When cleaning the outside condenser system and its inner parts– after turning off power to the heat pump, or air conditioning system, adhere to the following air conditioning maintenance tips!

  • Remove any leaves, webs, dirt, and any other debris from the device’s exterior. Trim vegetation back numerous feet from the system to make sure appropriate airflow is possible.
  • Get rid of the cover grille to cleanse any particulate matter from the system’s interior. A strong garden hose spray can be handy for this job.
  • If the unit has any curved fins, make use of a “Fin Comb” to straighten any defective fins.
  • Add oil to the electric motor if necessary. Check your owner’s manual for detailed instructions.
  • Maintain the evaporator and condenser coils a minimum of annually; they will not operate at a sufficient level when covered in dust
Parts of an air conditioning system

Inspect the Condensate Drain Line

Condensate drain lines accumulate water from the heating and cooling system and direct it away from the unit before draining. The drain lines are located on the side of the fan system inside the unit. Often, there are two drainpipe lines– a primary drain line that’s built into the compressor unit housing, and a secondary drain line that can drain the system if the first line becomes blocked.

Homeowners can inspect the drainpipe line without any special tools or devices simply by using what is already available to you; your hands and eyes! Using your hands and eyes, check the condensate drain line by:

  • Check the condensate drain line for blockages and narrowing, such as by algae, as well as other debris. If the line becomes blocked, water will begin backing up. Eventually, this water will make its way out to the drain pan, which will then overflow, potentially triggering water damages to your house. If this happens, the likelihood of a safety hazard developing increases.
  • Observe the hosepipe connections and fittings and use your hands to make sure the fit is nice and snug, and nothing is loose or leaking.
Air conditioner liquid refrigerant cycle and system structure

Clean the Air Filter

Air filters are used to remove from your indoor air dust, plant pollen, and various other fragments and particles that would otherwise circulate throughout your home. Most filters usually are rectangle-shaped, measuring about 1 inch thick and roughly 320 square inches. They are placed into the central ductwork, inside and near the fan.

You can typically find the air filters located within the main air conditioning unit near the fan

The air conditioner’s filter needs to be regularly cleaned or replaced, depending on the supplier’s guidelines. A dirty air filter can cause added stress on the motor, ultimately weakening it and making it work harder to produce the same results. In addition to the increased stress on the electric motor, soiled and dirty air filters have the effect of lowering the quality of your indoor air by not removing as much particulate matter from the air inside your home.

Over time, this will cause an increase in the cost of your electrical service due to a higher demand for power from the air conditioner and a lower level of performance. This can create an expensive downward spiral in which energy consumption continues to rise, and performance continues to decrease until the air conditioning unit breaks for good and needs replacement.

16x20x1 inch air filter for residential home hvac system
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The filter should be changed monthly during heavy use and throughout the cooling seasons. You might need to clean or replace the filter more frequently if the ac unit is used continuously.

If you have animals that shed, residents with breathing or respiratory issues, or if you have a dusty home, properly changing and maintaining your filters regularly in your a/c system can help tremendously.

Cover the Exterior Heat Pump

When the summer months and hot season is over, you should cover the exterior condenser unit to prepare for the winter months. If your air conditioning system isn’t being used, why would you want it exposed to the winter elements?

Covering the exterior unit will undoubtedly help with protecting against ice, leaves, and dirt from entering the device, which can harm various parts, causing the need for additional air conditioning maintenance in the spring.

An air conditioner or heat pump external unit cover can be purchased, or you can make one on your own, make sure to turn the system off completely before putting your cover on it.

Close the Air-Distribution Registers

Air-distribution registers are duct openings in ceilings, wall surfaces, and floors where cold air flows into a room. Registers must be closed after the Spring and Summer air conditioning period ends to keep heated, conditioned air from escaping through them during the winter when heaters are in use.

Short clip of an air-distribution register being closed at the end of the cooling season.

Bugs, pet dander, dust, pests, and dirt will additionally be unable to enter the ducts throughout the winter months with the registers shut. These vents usually can be opened or closed by a nearby bar or wheel.

Remember to open up the registers in the springtime once the cold weather has subsided and before the air conditioning season begins again. When doing so, make certain these vents are not blocked by furniture or any other household items.

In Conclusion

Along with the above steps and information, homeowners ought to exercise the following approaches to keep their central air conditioning systems running correctly between annual system inspections by a trained professional:

  • Have the air conditioning system examined by a licensed professional annually before the beginning of the Spring and Summer months.
  • Minimize the stress placed on your house’s cooling system by improving your house’s energy efficiency! For example, if you are using incandescent type lights in your home, make the change to compact fluorescent lights as they give off less heat, and use less energy.

Any homeowner can do regular assessments as well as maintenance to their residence’s central air-conditioning system. All it takes is the right information and a bit of inspiration and motivation!

If, while performing your maintenance on the air conditioning system you come across a situation warranting actual HVAC repairs, it is best to stop what you are doing, and call your local HVAC company. You can also try finding an experienced HVAC inspector from your local qualified home inspectors.

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