A Few Tips for Annual Air-Conditioner Maintenance

Even if your air conditioner is fairly new and hasn't given you any problems yet, it's still a good idea to start a program of preventative maintenance. Having your air conditioner serviced annually keeps it working efficiently so you spend less on power bills and, more importantly, reduce the risk of breakdowns in the hot summer months. Here are some of the tasks that should be done each spring before the cooling season begins.

Clean and Trim Around the Condenser Cage

Plants and trees often grow quickly during the spring and summer, so you'll probably want to trim them aggressively so they stay a few feet away from your air conditioner throughout the cooling season. Mow around the cage if necessary, and rake away leaves that have blown against the unit. If the unit is on a concrete pad, hose off the pad to get rid of dirt and debris that could blow into the vents later on. Getting dirt, leaves, and weeds away from the cage is important for keeping it clean once you've cleaned out the inside.

Clean Out the Cage

Before you attempt to clean the condenser cage itself, be sure to turn off the power to your air conditioner. Remember, the power to the outdoor unit is a different switch than the one that controls the blower indoors. Turning off the power protects you from shock and also from accidentally turning on the fan blades while you're cleaning the cage. Remove the screws to the lid and pull it off the top. Then you can reach inside and pull out clumps of leaves and other debris that have collected inside. You can wash off the cage with a hose to remove grass clippings and dirt. Just put the nozzle inside the unit and spray the water to the outside through the fins. If the fins are very dirty, use a fin cleaner you buy at a home-improvement store. Avoid scrubbing or pressing on the fins, or else you could bend them and obstruct airflow through the air conditioner.

Check and Service the Components

Cleaning the air conditioner is just a start. This gets the unit ready for when a contractor to make a service call. You probably don't want to service any parts on your own if that could void the warranty. Instead, let a contractor check the electrical components, motor, and other moving parts. He or she can also clean the evaporating coil and check the refrigerant. The contractor replaces parts showing wear and tear and adds lubricants where needed to prevent further damage. If your air conditioner is showing signs of damage, the contractor can make preventative repairs and save you the expense of an emergency call later on.

If you have your air conditioner serviced annually, it will experience fewer problems. So while you'll have to pay for a checkup, you'll probably pay less overall since you'll avoid costly repair bills for damage caused by neglect.