With autumn just around the corner, the AC installation, repair, and tune-up professionals at Integrity Home Solutions figured it was high time to talk about the most essential fall AC maintenance tips that homeowners in Southwest Florida should know about.
Maintaining your air conditioner doesn’t need to be tricky. Neglect your A/C maintenance for too long, though, and you may find your A/C unit breaking down when it’s least convenient — like, say, at the beginning of Autumn, when temperatures outside are dropping fast.
It’s important that homeowners maintain their A/C unit to save money, extend their air conditioner’s lifespan, and ensure their indoor comfort year-round. An air conditioner that’s running properly can easily get rid of excess moisture that’s hanging in the air, and it’s essential that homeowners follow the below A/C maintenance tips just before colder seasons such as Fall begin.
If you have a heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system in your home, then it includes either a furnace and air conditioner unit or a heat pump that can heat and cool your home. Regardless of what your HVAC system consists of, our tips below still apply: both types of HVAC systems that we described above have interior units and exterior units that can be maintained regularly.
So, without further ado, let’s dive into the most important Fall A/C maintenance tips you should be aware of as the weather outside begins to cool down!
Clean Your AC Unit
When discussing AC maintenance tips for the fall, it’s usually a good idea to start with cleaning your unit. First thing’s first: power off your unit to avoid hazardous conditions when working around electricity and the many moving parts of your unit. Completely shut off your air conditioner by using your exterior shut-off box that’s typically located somewhere close to your unit
With our air conditioning unit powered down, it’s time to clear the debris inside. Start by taking off your A/C unit’s fan cage that’s found on the exterior condenser/compressor. You can usually accomplish this with a wrench or screwdriver, after which you can take off your unit’s fasteners to lift away your cage or fan grill. Use a wet/dry vacuum or simply use your hands to start removing debris such as leaves and dirt from the inside of your air conditioning unit.
Pay particular attention to your fins as you clean your air conditioner. You’ll want to take off your unit’s outer covers and then use either a brush attachment or industrial-grade vacuum to suck up dirt that’s accumulated on your fins. Consider using a stream of water from something such as your garden hose to get rid of any remaining gunk that’s gotten wedged between your fins. The team at Integrity Home Solutions recommends that you do not use a pressure washer – pressure washers can actually damage your unit’s fins, which are relatively delicate and sensitive to too much force. Not feeling comfortable cleaning out your A/C unit yourself? The experts at Integrity Home Solutions have the proper tools and experience to return your air conditioner quickly and efficiently to a condition that’s as good as new.
Clean the Area Around Your Air Conditioner
Now that you’ve finished cleaning your air conditioner, it’s time to take care of the area around it. Put your fan cage back on your unit and start raking back any leaves and debris that you can find outside your unit’s condenser. While you’re at it, cut back branches and vegetation at least two in any direction so that your air conditioner has as much airflow as possible.
The Fall and Winter months don’t require that you use your condenser, so the Integrity Home Solutions team recommends that you cover the top of your unit with material such as plastic or plywood to make sure nothing falls in. Leave a little room around your unit’s sides, though, to prevent moisture build-up inside your air conditioner and any subsequent corrosion.
It’s time to level your A/C unit. Once you’ve cleaned the area around your air conditioner, don’t forget to level your unit to prevent your compressor from failing prematurely. Over time, the pad where your condenser unit is situated can start to slope downward due to the soil that is settling underneath. Condenser units that aren’t level can cause your compressor to fail early: check with HVAC pros such as those at Integrity Home Solutions to see whether your condenser is level. Our team can use rot-resistant shims to bring your unit back to level.
Clean Your Evaporator Coil
Let’s turn toward your evaporator coil and move on inside. You’ll find your evaporator coil door located on the inside blower or furnace unit that your system uses. After you’ve removed some foil duct tape and taken off a few screws or bolts, you can use a soft brush to begin dusting away your evaporator coil. Spray your coil with a no-rinse cleaning solution, which you can usually spot at any home improvement store located near you.
Now begin to clean out your coil’s drain pan with a little bit of hot water and some bleach. As an added measure, pour a cup of 50 percent bleach/50 percent water down the drain. You can keep your drain cleaner for longer by placing a commercially available drain pan tablet in your coil’s pain to keep things such as algae and microbial growth at bay.
Warm, humid air from your home’s interior is blown through the evaporator coil on the interior. The cold coil absorbs heat from the air, cooling it, before the air is circulated back into your home. The humidity in the air condenses on the cool surface of the evaporator coil as liquid water, dripping into a pan below. From the pan, the water flows into a drain tube which is typically routed into a basement floor drain, utility sink or outside.
Clean Your Evaporator Drain
It’s finally time to tackle your evaporator drain before you turn your unit back on. Unwanted debris such as algae and microbial growth can, over time, build up in your evaporator drain and potentially cause it to become clogged. If you notice that your evaporator drain is having a hard time flowing, it’s likely the case that you need to unplug it. Unplug your drain as soon as possible to prevent damage to your home’s floors due to flooding. The team at Integrity Home Solutions can help you quickly determine whether your drain isn’t flowing fast enough or not flowing at all.
You’ll want to first locate your drain line when it’s time to clean your evaporator drain. Find the drain line that leaves your evaporator coil’s enclosure (it’s typically a 1-inch PVC pipe that’s white, gray, or black) and follow it all the way to where it drains water. Your line most likely drains outside near your condenser unit, although it may be draining into a basement floor drain or utility sink instead.
Once located, use a wet/dry vacuum to clear the drain. It’s best to remove the paper filter from the wet/dry vacuum so as not to ruin the filter. Hold the hose of the wet/dry vacuum to the end of the drain line. You can use duct tape or simply hold a rag around the gap. Turn on the vacuum for a moment, then turn it off to clear your drain of microbial growth.
The Integrity Home Solutions team emphasizes that, while the above steps can keep your A/C unit in tip-top shape for the fall season and beyond, it’s sometimes best to have a trained team of HVAC technicians to double-check your unit for anything you’ve missed. Living in or around Southwest Florida? Call us today at (813)-565-1416 for an inspection of your AC unit to ensure it’s ready for the fall season!