Your home’s central air conditioning system is a critical component when it comes to your cooling your home. When repairing your system, installing new equipment or maintaining existing equipment, important considerations need to be taken before getting started. Understanding how your central air conditioning system works, required maintenance procedures and easy cleaning and repair tips will help you care for your system.
A central air conditioning system is comprised of two main components referred to as a condenser and an evaporator. The condenser resides on the exterior of your home, usually placed on a small, concrete slab where it is easily accessible. The evaporator including the evaporator coil and air handler or blower is strategically located inside the home usually in a closet dedicated to the unit. The evaporator might be located in the attic as well. In homes where a furnace is used, the evaporator will reside above it where it connects to the plenum or a duct junction for air distribution. If you do not have a furnace or other heating source, your central air conditioning system may be equipped with an electrical resistance heating element to provide your home with warm air during the winter months. Since we are talking about a central air conditioner, this article will focus mainly on the cooling aspects of the system.
In either case, a central air conditioning system falls under the forced air distribution category, meaning the same ductwork, motor and blower are used for both heating and cooling your home. Once the unit is activated, hot air is drawn from the house into the return air vent and pulled across the evaporator coil to cool it. The fan and blower assembly provide the circulation to draw in and distribute the conditioned air through the ductwork to cool the house.
Central air conditioners require a high degree of training, knowledge and experience to repair properly. Both of the main components: Evaporator and condenser are sealed units therefore, special training and tools are required to service them. To maintain peak performance and efficiency of your central air conditioning system, schedule an annual inspection, adjustment and cleaning for preventive maintenance with a reputable contractor before the summer months set in.
Choosing the right contractor is as important as maintaining your heating and cooling system. Before hiring an HVAC contractor, verify that they are licensed, insured and carry the required knowledge and experience to service you home’s system. The BBB (Better Business Bureau) is a great place to start, as they will have any complaints, lawsuits or concerns on file regarding the applicable contractor. Ask the contractor for a list of references with phone numbers so that you can call and ask pointed questions such as the quality, cleanliness and timeliness of the work performed.
Upon arriving at your home, and after introductions are made, the contractor will begin his/her inspection, adjustment and cleaning procedures. A thorough cleaning and inspection should include the following:
Service contracts for annual preventive maintenance are available through many HVAC contractors and companies. Benefits often include:
The benefits of annual preventive maintenance checkups on your central air-conditioning system far outweigh the costs of the service. With regular preventive maintenance checkups, you can expect:
Annual preventive maintenance contracts are great but sometimes trouble arises in between appointments. Although most central air conditioning repairs require a professional, there are some things you can do to troubleshoot and even correct your home’s system.
If you forgot to change the filter or ran your system without one, which happens more often than you would think, your evaporator coils might have gotten dirty. Therefore, you find yourself 6 months before your next scheduled cleaning and maintenance call wondering what to do. No sweat, most homeowners should have no trouble cleaning their evaporator coils themselves and preventing a costly service call. Gather the following items before starting this project:
Step 1. Turn the power off to the central air conditioning system at the circuit breaker box.
Step 2. Remove the air filter on the evaporator unit to expose the underside — the side most exposed to dirt and debris collection — of the evaporator coils.
Step 3. Clean the area beneath the evaporator when applicable and vacuum as much of the loose debris from the evaporator coils as possible.
Step 4. Mix the coil cleaner when applicable with clean water according to manufacturer’s instructions. Some coil cleaners might not require mixing with water so read the instructions carefully.
Step 5. Apply the solution liberally to the evaporator coils using the spray bottle. Be sure to wear your safety goggles and rubber gloves to prevent injury.
Step 6. Rinse the evaporator coils with clean water using a plastic spray bottle.
Step 7. Vacuum entire area and wipe up excess solution, dirt or debris with clean rags.
Step 8. Install a new filter.
Homeowners lacking the extensive knowledge, experience, training and specialized tools required to install a new central air conditioning system should never attempt to install one. This project will require a highly trained technician with the experience to complete the job successfully. Steps a homeowner should take before hiring a heating and air conditioning contractor are listed above under the maintenance section. However, there are certain projects a homeowner can do before the technician arrives to install the new system.
Have your contractor help you determine if new ductwork is necessary. In most cases, it is not and a simple cleaning will suffice, but it doesn’t hurt to weigh your options beforehand. Determine if you want to relocate your system. Although this usually will increase the cost of installation, as more work will be required, a new location may boost efficiency, be required because of planned or existing room additions, or the system was placed poorly in the first place. A good example of poor placement would be the evaporator in the attic or the outside condensing unit next to a patio or bedroom window.
Central air conditioning systems are complex pieces of machinery. This information will help you understand the procedures required to maintain, repair and install new central air conditioning systems.