How to Maintain Your Air Conditioning System
Often I am asked, do I need to do anything to my air conditioning system to keep it running smoothly? Well in my opinion, getting maintenance for your HVAC system is just as important as getting an oil change for your vehicle. Although an air conditioner may run for years without any type of maintenance, it is more likely to have issues sooner than later. In this article, I will go over the essential steps to keeping your ac system running smoothly year round.
1.) Filters- The most important step to maintaining your HVAC system is using clean filters. Dirty filters can cause several issues that can lead to costly repairs. For example, an extremely dirty filter may cause more strain to your AC system that may contribute to motor burn out, lack of airflow to supply vents, and compressor failure. Using cheap filters or no filter will cause the accumulation of dirt and dust in the evaporator coil fins. Over time this can build up into a wall of dirt and block the flow of air through the coil. This will cause your evaporator to freeze up into a block of ice or severely restrict the flow of air to your supply vents. Cleaning an extremely dirty evaporator coil is called a “pull and clean”, which entails removing the evaporator coil and cleaning it with special chemicals. Costs can range from $500-$1,000 for a pull and clean. Simply using good filters and changing them frequently can prevent these issues.
Recommended HVAC Filtration:
Washable filters- I do not recommend washable filters because they do not offer good protection from fine dust particles. Washable filters are very cost-effective, but not effective at stopping dirt and dust from entering the evaporator coil.
Pleated 1” Filters- Pleated filter offer good protection for your HVAC system. These filters can stop fine dust particles from entering your AC system. Pleated filters are normally sold at hardware stores. I recommend pleated filters that are “MERV Rated”. These filters are rated for how much dirt and dust can be removed. The higher the MERV rating the more dirt and dust is stopped. I recommend a MERV rating from 6-11. Anything higher than this may cause too much static pressure and a lack of airflow to supply vents. Pleated filters are very cost-effective. Pleated filters are typically good for 1-3 months depending on traffic, pets, and return location.
Pleated 5” Filters- These filters are for AC systems containing High-Efficiency Filter Rack Systems. A 5” filter is able to stop more dirt and dust and can last for up to a year without changing. These filters are very effective at stopping fine dust particles. 5” Pleated filters can become expensive though depending on what brand and rating is purchased. I recommend purchasing a MERV rating of 8 for these filters.
Electronic Filters- These filters are very effective at stopping dirt and dust from entering your HVAC system. Dust particles are pulled into the filtration system, rather than getting caught in the filter. These systems usually have some sort of media that needs to be changed or washed. Electronic filters are good for those with allergies to dust and pollen particles. Electronic filtration systems are usually the most expensive and have a high initial investment.
2.) Cleaning The Drain Line- In split system air conditioning systems the condensate drain line carries water from the air handler drain pan to an outside location near the condenser unit. You can view this pipe as a white PVC pipe leaving the air handler. It travels to an exterior location of your home which is usually located near the condenser unit. You will see a PVC pipe near the condenser with water dripping out while the system is running.
As water condensates off of the evaporator coil, it falls into the drain pan and travels through the drain line to an exit point outside of your home. The water falling off of the evaporator coil sometimes has clumps or dirt, dust or mildew in it, which over time can clog up your drain line. There are several ways to keep your drain line clean and preventing clogs or water backups.
Pour Bleach, Chlorine, or white vinegar down the drain line- If you have an access port to add cleaning solutions to your drain line, you can pour about a cup of bleach, vinegar, or chlorine down the drain line to prevent build up.
Shop-Vac the Drain Line- If you do not have an access port to add cleaning solutions to the drain line you may use a shop vacuum to clean the drain line. Find the exterior portion of the drain line and place the vacuum hose over the pvc fitting. Seal the vacuum hose with tape and let the vacuum run for 1-3 minutes. The vacuum will remove water in the drain line and dirt, dust and mildew.
Nitrogen or Compressed air- If a shop vacuum is not able to clear your clogged drain line then it will need to be cleaned with nitrogen or compressed air. Air is blown through the drain line to release the clog and blow out contaminants causing water back- up.
I recommend cleaning the drain line with either of these techniques, every 3 months, to prevent water back up. Water back can cause flooding and damage to your home and belongings.
These two things are the most important and easiest maintenance procedures that need to be completed for optimal air conditioning performance.