Air Conditioning Maintenance and Service for Snowbirds
Living in the South, one often overlooked item you should pay attention to is your air conditioning unit. I have found in my Florida home that we don’t use the air conditioner very often during the winter months, as we prefer to open the windows and feel the cool night breezes. There are, however, still those winter days when having the A/C on provides more comfort than when it’s not. Knowing the importance of the unit, and the expense of replacing it if things go wrong, listed below are a few essential tips to keep your A/C performing well.
Top Consumer Tips for Air Conditioning
1. Use a programmable thermostat. Since you’ll be able to set the temperature for different settings throughout the day (and season!), you can maximize your yearly energy savings. For example, you could program your thermostat for winter at 65 degrees at night and then back to 75 degrees during the day.
2. Examine seals. Check for escaping air around the seals in your home. Look first at your windows and doors, but don’t forget to also check electrical outlets or other open areas. Use a good quality caulk to seal around these areas, and reexamine your handiwork every few years.
3. Check the filter. Your air conditioner filter should be inspected each month. A dirty filter will cause excessive wear and tear on your unit. Cleaning or replacing your filter at regular intervals is a cheap and easy step that can save you thousands down the road.
4. Brush the exterior. The outdoor coil/condensing unit can become dirty over time. Use a brush or a wet/dry vac with a soft brush to clean the surface. For dirt that is deep in the coil, contact an A/C pro to set up a regular service schedule.
5. Remove debris. Keep debris away from your outdoor unit. If you can keep leaves, shrubbery, grass clippings, and other debris away it should only require minimal care. Ensure you check the base pan under the unit occasionally and remove debris to help the unit drain properly.
6. Inspect ventilation. Before each season, check your vent system. If you find dust, dirt, or rust, your A/C system may not operate properly or at its peak efficiency.
7. No humidifier. Don’t use a humidifier while running your air conditioning unit. The A/C takes humidity out and cools the air. A humidifier will have a hard time putting moisture back in the air, since the two systems are trying to cancel each other out.
8. Leaky ducts. Cooled air can be lost in your attic or crawl space if you have leaky ducts. They can also suck in mold and other pollutants into your home. Mastic seal ducts to improve comfort and efficiency.
9. Balance. Hot or cold rooms in your home could mean that your duct systems need to be balanced. To keep from overcooling one room to get another room at a comfortable temperature, have your air flow checked and measured by a certified balancing technician. They may recommend you get a ductless mini-split air conditioning system to make your home more comfortable, especially if you have a two story house.
10. Inspect and maintain professionally. Annual maintenance agreements are inexpensive. Save yourself the headache and schedule service with a professional. I have an annual agreement for $120 that provides me two maintenance appointments per year. I keep up on the basic cleaning and maintenance myself, and then have the annual servicing done by someone who would be able to notice things that I may have missed during the season.