Ensuring your central air conditioning is running efficiently not only keeps you cooler, it saves electricity and prolongs the life of your AC unit. While having an HVAC technician out to service your unit is a good idea, there are many things you can do yourself.
Let’s start outside. The AC compressor is the part of your air conditioner located outside. It’s job is to cool down the coolant. The fan blows -up- pulling air through a series of coils covered with small fins. This lowers the temperature of the coolant running through the coils. Many times, dust, debris, dirt, etc. clogs these fins preventing proper air flow. These fins are easy to clean by simply spraying them with a garden hose. Be careful not to use too much water pressure or you could bend or damage the fins.
Now let’s go inside. If you have floor vents, take off the covers and vacuum any dust or debris that has accumulated. This debris can partially block the flow of air.
Next, let's go to your furnace. Furnace filters keep dirt out of your furnace and a-coil ( the part of your AC unit inside the furnace ). A dirty air filter blocks airflow, lowering efficiency. Never run your furnace or AC without a furnace filter; this would allow dirt to accumulate inside the furnace blocking the airflow. Dirt -inside- your furnace can only be cleaned by an HVAC technician.
Take a look at your furnace filter. If it is discolored, if you see any dirt, or if it’s damaged, it is time to replace it. Furnace filters have different dimensions, but typically the width is either one inch or four inches. A one inch wide filter will typically last a month or two. The four inch wide filters will typically last three to six months. Make sure you use a high-quality filter. You can see through the cheapest filters, these are not going to catch much dust. Many times filters have a MERV rating. The higher the MERV rating, the more particles it will catch.
After taking a look at your air filter, check your AC drain line. Running the air conditioner pulls lots of humidity out of the air. This humidity is condensed into water by the a-coil ( the part of your AC unit inside the furnace ). This water then drains through a pipe on the side of the furnace. If this pipe gets clogged, the water will drain inside the furnace and can cause significant damage. If you have access to the end of this drain line, check it while the air conditioner is running. It should be wet on the end and will be a steady drip in most cases. There should never be water or dampness under or on your furnace. If there is, call an HVAC technician to make repairs.
Now that you have completed these steps to make your air conditioner run more efficient, let’s do a quick test to see how well it is running. You want to measure the temperature difference between the air in the room and the cool air coming out of your vents. You can use an inexpensive meat thermometer with a small temperature dial to get a good estimate, but a digital meat thermometer will provide a more accurate measurement. If your AC unit is running well, the difference between the room temperature and cold air coming from the vents should be at least 15 degrees Fahrenheit.
This article was written my Jim Maurer, a home inspector in the Columbus OH area. Have questions about the article or know someone who needs a home inspection? Call Jim at 614-431-2300.