February 6, 2018
It’s finally spring / early summer here in Chicago and you know what that means… you know what that means, right?
It means it’s time to check up on your air conditioner!
Trust us – you’ll want to do this now, rather than later, because you know how the hot weather hits this area: like a ton of bricks. One day it’s a fresh, cool, spring / early summer day and the next day, it’s 95 degrees. And you don’t want to get caught with a broken air conditioner, or even one that’s not functioning at its best when the temperature rises.
There are three main reasons you want to check your air conditioner and do some routine maintenance today:
- If it needs to be replaced, it will be cheaper to do so before the rush starts when the hot weather hits.
- Regular maintenance can extend the life of your air conditioner, therefore saving you money on having to get a replacement sooner than you might otherwise need it.
- Regular maintenance can keep your air conditioner running at peak performance, which will save you $$ on your energy bill.
How Do I Prepare My Air Conditioner For Summer?
Short on time but need to have your air conditioner checked? We can do that – but if you have a few weekend hours to spare, you might want to give it a go yourself. Here’s a how-to:
What you’ll need:
- A new filter (if you have a replaceable filter). Check the dimensions on your current one or in the manual for your air conditioner before heading to the store. Remember to grab one or two extras while you’re at the store so you have them on hand for when you need them over the summer.
- Screwdriver or wrench to remove the fan cage. Check your unit to see exactly what tool you will need.
- Garden hose with spray attachment. You will not need a pressure washer – in fact, pressure washers can damage delicate parts of the machine.
- A good scrub brush and some hot, soapy water.
- Air conditioning unit fin straightener comb or a knife.
- Rags or towels.
- Household cleaner (non-bleach).
- Shop vacuum – not imperative, but makes it a lot easier.
- Leather / protective gloves.
Step 1: TURN OFF THE POWER AND UNPLUG THE AIR CONDITIONING UNIT.
This should be your first step before working with any electrical appliance. Very important.
Step 2: Scrub and soap-up the fins
If there is visible dirt of debris on the metal fins that are on the outside of the unit, give them a good scrub with hot soapy water. You can also use an industrial fin cleaning spray for this step. If some dirt is really crusted on, don’t worry about it too much at this point. No need to rinse or dry just yet…
Step 3: Remove the top of the unit, including the fan and the motor.
You’ll need a screwdriver or wrench to do this. Do NOT detach any wires connecting this part from the rest of the unit. Simply lay the fan / motor to the side, trying not to put too much strain on attached wires. Also be aware that the metal fins on the outside of the unit bend easily. We’ll be fixing those in a later step, but the less you need to fix, the quicker this will go. So try not to bang anything against the outside of the unit as you are working.
Step 3: Get the big gunk out.
Leaves, grass clippings, and any other foreign debris inside the unit needs to go. Take out what you can by hand or use a shop vacuum (a vacuum specially designed to suck up large debris and wet stuff).
Step 4: Spray it out.
First, place a towel over the control panel to keep most of the water off it in this step. It won’t be waterproof, but it doesn’t need to be (remember, it gets wet when it rains) but there’s no need to purposefully get it wet, either. Now, use your garden hose with a spray attachment to spray your unit from the inside out. Since the unit typically pulls air (and debris) in, spraying from the inside out will force out that junk instead of jamming it in further. This will also wash away most of the soap you left on the fins in step 2.
Step 5: Suck up remaining gunk.
Use your shop vacuum or a towel to get into crevices and get out any remaining standing water or debris / dirt / mud. It doesn’t have to be bone dry inside (remember: rain gets it wet). Then replace the fan / motor / top of the unit and secure with your screwdriver or wrench as needed.
Step 6: Straighten the fins.
If the outside metal fins are bent in any area, that means less air is being sucked into the unit, which makes the air conditioner work harder (and ups your electric bill). The best way to straighten bent fins is to purchase a commercial tool meant for this task, but depending on the space between the fins, but sometimes people use a butter knife or a pocket knife. But, the result with a knife is less precise and it takes longer than when you use the right tool for the job.
Step 7: Replace or clean the filter.
If you do nothing else on this list, at least replace or clean the filter. Cleaning or replacing your air conditioner’s filter is the number one thing you can do today to help your air conditioner work efficiently. If your unit’s filter is replaceable, make sure you get the correct dimensions before heading out to purchase a new one. While you’re at the store, get a few extra – this will save you a trip the next time it needs to be replaced. If you have a permanent filter, you’ll be cleaning, instead of replacing, it.
Generally, you will want to replace your disposable air filter or clean your permanent filter in your air conditioner every 4 – 6 weeks, depending on how frequently the air conditioner is running and depending on whether the air in your home needs more or less filtering. For instance, if you live in a dusty area or have had home construction or repairs performed, you might need to replace your filter more often. If you have furry pets, you’ll want to keep a close eye on that filter – pet fur can really clog up an air filter.
By keeping your air filter clean, you’re saving money: a clean filter can reduce an air conditioner’s energy usage between 5% and 15%! So start the summer with a fresh filter and check on it in a few weeks to get an idea of how often you will need to clean or replace it again.
Done! You’re ready for the hot weather now!
Now, if you don’t have the tools (or the time) to perform regular air conditioning maintenance like this, we’re happy to help. Give us a call at 630-455-9015 and we’ll make sure your AC is ready to go for the summer.
Also, if you perform all these steps and when the hot weather starts you feel like your air conditioner isn’t keeping up, you might need more serious maintenance or you might even need to replace your unit.
If you find yourself in that situation, schedule an appointment and we will come out, assess the situation, and let you know how we can help you get the most out of your air conditioner. Until then – enjoy your spring and summer!