The majority of people think of their heating and air conditioning systems on only two occasions; when they receive their monthly power bills and when the A/C quits working properly. This is understandable because many Australian households spend upward of 27 percent of their total yearly energy budget on air-conditioning and repairing A/C system failures is rarely cheap.
What many fail to realise is that much of this expense is completely unnecessary. This expense can be reduced or avoided altogether by implementing a preventive maintenance programme for their HVAC system.
Direct costs of avoiding HVAC maintenance
Studies have found that dirty or damaged A/C evaporator coils can increase energy costs by about 5 percent; dirty blower wheels and fan blades can reduce air flow by as much as 30 percent, and undercharged refrigerant in an air conditioner can more than double a unit’s energy use. These are just the direct costs associated with not having PM performed on your air conditioning system. An added advantage of maintenance is that small problems can be discovered before they evolve into major issues such as a total system failure.
Scheduling professional maintenance on your AC system
Just as you have yearly medical check-ups to help assure your good health, your car serviced according to a set schedule keep it running smoothly and safely, you should have your air conditioning checked regularly to avoid a situation where it quits on you and to minimise power usage.
You should have a full inspection performed by a licensed air conditioning technician on at least an annual basis and preferably each spring and Autumn. Scheduling your air conditioner maintenance with the seasonal changes helps assure that you won’t have to face the summer heat without cool air blowing in your home or your system suffering damage when the winter chill sets in.
Some of the services they can perform for you include:
- Checking refrigerant levels
- Deep cleaning of coils
- Inspecting electrical components for signs of excessive heat or damage
- Tightening electrical connections
- Checking and cleaning ductwork
- Flushing drains and checking evaporate pumps
- Looking for leaks and breaks
- Checking all mechanical components for signs of wear
- Checking airflow and system efficiency
- Air conditioning maintenance you can perform yourself
While there is no replacement for a professional, know there are a few things that you can do yourself to help assure that your air conditioner is in top condition. Taking just a few minutes each, these simple tasks can have a major impact on the life of your unit, your monthly utility costs and your comfort.
1. Cleaning and/or replacing your air conditioners filters
One of the simplest and most important jobs you can perform to help assure your aircon keeps running efficiently is to take care of its air filters. Filters do more than just protect your system from dust and debris they help keep the air in your home clean and protect your health.
When filters become clogged, they put your entire system under a strain which costs you money. Worse though is that they can begin to let dust filter into your ductwork where it can create a breeding ground for allergy and asthma, triggering moulds and mildew.
Some units use disposable filters while others have filters that can be washed and reused. If your AC has a washable filter, it can be rinsed with clear water and then left to dry before placing it back in the system. You should never but a damp filter back in service and you should never use a vacuum cleaner to clean the filter. Either one can jeopardise the safety of your system.
The majority of disposable filters simply sit or slide into place. They are found most often directly behind your air conditioners intake register.
They can be purchased at most hardware stores and come in a wide variety of sizes and types. It is best to always check with the manufacturer of your system for their recommendation on the proper filter for your unit.
Most manufacturers recommend cleaning or replacing the filter every 200 running hours. For the majority of homes in Australia with a properly sized air conditioner unit, this equates to approximately two months. If the weather has been unusually hot it never hurts to perform this type of maintenance more often.
2. Clean around your air conditioner unit
Just like people air conditioners need room to breathe. When the airflow around them is restricted, work is harder for the A/C which increases their energy use and your utility bill. It also leads to greater wear on their parts, meaning you get to pay for repairs sooner (thanks!)
For a split system, the unit inside the house should be kept dusted so air can flow easily throughout the system. Make sure furniture and curtains are not placed too close and take time to wipe down the air conditioning case occasionally.
With an outside unit, don’t let plants grow too close or branches hang too low around it. Keep checking to make sure leaves, paper or other types of debris haven’t piled up around its casing.
In today’s world it is difficult for most to imagine living without air conditioning. Thankfully, a small time investment can go a long way towards making sure you never have to experience an Australian summer without your AC working, and to save money.