It’s summer in Georgia, and the heat is starting to climb. You had those trees trimmed last winter, and now there’s not much shade for your house. The sun glares down on your roof for 6 solid hours, baking the black roof shingles until they’re fiery to the touch, and your attic is like a furnace.
Like everyone else in Georgia, you rely on your A/C unit to keep you cool during the hottest months of June-August. But at any moment your aging A/C unit could lock up and stop working. Maybe it’s new and you thought it didn’t need regular maintenance, or maybe it’s 10 years old and you didn’t know what to do for it. Perhaps you’ve even been guilty of ignoring your unit and the ominous rattling noises that it makes during the day. Whatever your relationship to machines and your A/C unit, it’s important to perform regular maintenance to extend its life and keep you cool in the Southern Summers. We’re here to give you a few tips about how even the non-mechanical among you can perform some easy DIY maintenance tips on your HVAC unit to keep the A/C cool all summer long. Here are our top five HVAC maintenance tips.
1. Replace your old air filter with a high quality one
One of the simplest solutions and the first one we suggest is to replace your old air filter with a new, high quality air filter. If your car mechanic tells you the air filter in your car engine needs replacing, you wouldn’t ignore that advice, would you? No, of course not! Your car is valuable to you. But think about it, you’ve spent thousands of dollars on a new HVAC unit—why risk its “engine” life by using poor quality air filters or not changing them regularly. Typically you want to change your filter every 30-90 days depending on how dirty it is. Getting a high quality, fresh filter can help with the following:
- Improve air quality inside the home
- Extend the life of your HVAC unit
- Save energy and energy bills
This is a simple task anyone can do. Go to any Home Depot, Lowe’s, or hardware store and find the filter you need. Don’t be tempted to go with the cheapest filter you see. Those ratings mean something. Whether it’s MERV, MPR, or FPR, the key is deciding what size particles you want to filter out. It can even help with things like, dust, pet hair, and pollen in your home if you get the right filter. Do your research and talk to a professional to figure out what you need. And make sure you install it so the air flows the right way. Tip: when you remove the old filter—notice which way the air flow arrow is pointing.
2. Pay Attention to Funny Noises
This one may seem like a simple one, but it’s something that most people forget to do or avoid. Some of our customers just aren’t mechanical people, but everyone can take a few moments to notice when strange or abnormal noises arise. Typically strange noises mean something is not functioning as it should. This could be a rattling, thumping, banging, whizzing, clicking, or whirring sound that is not what you typically hear. Chances are something is not working right. If you can be more aware of your unit’s typical noise pattern, you’ll be more apt to notice when it’s acting up and trying to tell you something. If you can catch it soon, it may be a minor repair. However, if you let it go or ignore it for a while, this could lead to a much more expensive problem.
3. Pay attention to the cooling power
This is another simple solution for folks who aren’t naturally mechanical. Simply walk around your house after you A/C unit has been on for a few hours. Notice how cool it is in each room and each spot in the house. Ask yourself, are you constantly turning the thermostat down? Chances are that it may not be cooling like it should. Keep in mind that as the summer heats up, the inside temperature of the home can be typically a maximum of 20° F lower the outside air. So if it’s 100°F outside, your house is probably only going to be able to cool down to 78-80°F. And some rooms aren’t as well insulated or are further from the unit—so this may be normal for your house. But if it’s not just the summer heat and your gut instinct is that your unit should be cooling better in one or more rooms, chances are there’s something not working quite right. It may be time to call in a professional.
4. Clean around the A/C Unit
Another simple tip is to keep the A/C and HVAC unit clean. One of the most common issues is leaves and outside debris that gathers around the outside portion of the A/C unit, also called the condenser unit. A pretty common scenario our technicians find is that leaves fall off the roof and gutter and gather around the base of the condenser unit and inside the blower and fan and condenser fins. Sometimes this debris blocks airflow to the unit, causing it to worker harder than it is supposed to. You may even want to invest in a fin brush, but be careful, they bend easily. If you have some familiarity with mechanical parts, you can even unplug your condenser unit, remove the fan, and use a garden hose to spray the fins from the inside out to get the dust and dirt out of the fins. A vacuum on the outside of the fins can also help.
5. Schedule regular professional maintenance before there’s a problem
One of the best ways to catch a problem is before it grows into a disaster. If you’re doing all the suggestions above, including keeping the filter clean, keeping an occasional eye on the unit, and cleaning around the condenser unit, then the final simple step for non-mechanical people is to schedule regular maintenance check-ups with a pro. A pro can spot more advanced issues before they become a major problem and recommend a timeline and solutions. Issues with electrical problems, small or delicate parts, and chemicals like Freon or other coolants should be left to a professional.
So to sum up, there are some basic things every homeowner can do to extend the life of their A/C unit. No one wants to be without A/C in the heat of the summer. If you’ve done all those and you’re experience an issue, then it’s probably time bring in the pros for extra help.