Your air conditioner is a complex machine that requires regular maintenance to help you avoid unexpected repairs during summer. It will also reduce your monthly cooling costs and extend the lifespan of your system. Some maintenance you can perform yourself. However, much of it requires a professional HVAC technician. We advise scheduling a tune-up in spring before you need to run your air. Let’s explore what you can do yourself and what to expect during a service appointment.

Clear the Area Around the Outdoor Unit

The outdoor component, called the condenser unit, is essential for your air conditioner or heat pump to function. While your HVAC technician checks and cleans this unit during regular tune-ups, you can also help with its upkeep. Make sure that there is no debris like leaves and twigs in the area, especially between it and your house. Keep a space of 18 to 24 inches of clearance on all sides. This means you must also remove any grass, bushes, or branches that are hanging over it. Taking this measure is especially important because this helps stop dirt from building up on the condenser coil.

Change Filters Regularly

Inspect the HVAC filters and replace them if necessary. To determine if a filter needs to be replaced, hold it up to the light. If no light passes through the mesh, it’s time for a new one. You should also clean both supply and return vents using a microfiber duster. Be sure to clean both the face and underside of the vent plates and extend the duster into the ducts to clear away as much debris as possible.

Schedule Regular Maintenance

It is essential to schedule regular maintenance to keep your system in decent shape. Experts recommend this be done once each year.

Tasks the Technician Performs During Maintenance

During the maintenance appointment, there are a variety of tasks that the technician will perform. You can expect the following to occur.

Examine and Clean the Condenser Unit

All ACs and heat pumps have equipment outside the home. This includes the HVAC disconnect switch and the condenser unit, which houses the refrigerant system, condenser pump, condenser coil, and condenser fan. It’s necessary to check the disconnect as a faulty switch will disable the system. It’s also necessary to ensure that the condenser unit is level before proceeding with any other maintenance. Your technician will also blow out any leaves and other debris that have become lodged in the condenser unit.

The next step is to check the refrigerant level and pressure. ACs and heat pumps do not consume refrigerant over time. The level and pressure should be within the expected range. If they are not, you likely have a leak. Not all leaks are major. Micro leaks are common and repairing them right away will ensure that your system performs optimally.

The condenser pump and condenser coil require extensive maintenance. The condenser coil requires cleaning with a specialized cleaner to extend its lifespan and ensure energy-efficient operation. Your technician will need to disconnect the condenser pump to clean it and remove any blockages from the drain lines. Putting algae tabs in the pump reservoir is typical. Once that process has been completed, the technician will check and clean the fan blades and apply lubrication via the oil ports on the fan motor. They will also check the condenser fins, and if any are bent, they will lightly bend them back into shape.

There are several other components the technician will inspect, clean, and test. These include the bypass valve, which protects the compressor from refrigerant pressure that is too high. If you have a heat pump, this will include the reversing valve. These can get stuck, which will result in the system being unable to cool your home adequately.

Inspect and Clean the Evaporator Unit

The evaporator coil, located indoors, is typically housed in the utility closet or basement. During maintenance visits, technicians clean this component with a specialized solution to prevent grime buildup, which can decrease energy efficiency and degrade air quality. Additionally, they will inspect the fins and straighten them as needed to ensure optimal performance.

Condensation from the evaporator coil collects in the drip pan, which the technician will clean to prevent buildup and check for any cracks. They will also test the wet switch, a critical component that prevents flooding by detecting condensate drain line clogs. If this switch is faulty, it will be replaced before the system is activated. Additionally, the technician will clear any algae and debris from the condensate drain line, and they will sometimes use white vinegar. More severe blockages may require specialized tools. Finally, they will verify the angle of the condensate drain line to ensure it is correct and does not inadvertently trigger the wet switch.

Check and Clean the Air Handler

The air handler, located indoors near the evaporator unit, is a crucial component that your technician will clean along with other core parts during maintenance. During this process, the technician will inspect all wiring, tighten electrical connections, and test the electrical control boards. Any faulty wiring, especially if it shows signs of overheating, will be replaced.

Your technician will need to dismantle the air handler unit, clean its components, and then reassemble it. The air handler typically contains one or more filters that should be cleaned or replaced if needed. Additionally, the motor bearings should be greased, and the motor should be lubricated through the oil ports. If the air handler includes a belt, it must be inspected and tested along with the pulley. After reassembly, it’s important to run the air handler to monitor for any unusual or loud noises and to check for excessive vibrations.

Assessing the Functionality of the Thermostat

The technician will service your thermostat by removing the faceplate and using a brush to clean the electrical contacts. After replacing the faceplate, they will verify the temperature reading with another thermostat to ensure accuracy. Additionally, the technician will check the thermostat’s programming and other features commonly used during the summer to confirm proper functionality.

The technician will then activate the AC system and listen to the outdoor unit for any loud noises or excessive vibrations, which will indicate a problem. If the condenser struggles to start, this may be due to a failing capacitor, among other potential issues. Difficulty in starting the unit may also lead to the circuit breaker tripping.

The last step is to verify the static air pressure of the air handler to ensure it is within the correct range. The technician will use a water column manometer for this task. They will insert the static pressure tip into the supply side and record the reading and then repeat on the return side. They will compare these values with the specifications provided in the manufacturer’s literature for your model. If the measurements fall within the recommended ranges, your AC is ready for summer. If not, there may be a blockage in the ductwork or another issue that needs addressing.

Heating and Cooling in Peotone and Bradley

Kulacz & Sons Heating & Cooling, Inc. is an HVAC company with locations in Bradley and Peotone. We provide cooling and heating tune-ups in addition to maintenance agreements that will help you save money. Our HVAC technicians also install and repair air conditioners, heat pumps, ductless mini-splits, and electric and gas furnaces. Contact us today to schedule a consultation or appointment.

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