Since an air conditioner is a fairly complex piece of machinery, your first inclination when it breaks may be to call a repairperson. There are, however, some simple repairs you could probably handle on your own. A repairperson could, in fact, be necessary, but check out the following before you make the call and you might just save yourself some money:
Dirty Filters and Coils
Something as simple as a dirty air filter can keep the cool air from circulating through your home. Open the return vent to check the filter. Even if it doesn't look too dirty, if you haven't changed it in a while, it probably is. A dirty filter causes the unit to freeze up, so you may need to let it defrost for a few hours before restoring power. Replacement filters are pretty cheap and can usually be found in your local home improvement store.
Another common problem is a dirty condenser coil. This is the metal coiling that wraps all around the condenser unit (the outside unit). All you need to clean the condenser coil is a garden hose. Turn the unit off and then hold the spray nozzle of the hose about 4 inches from the coil. Move in a left-to-right motion starting at the top and moving slowly. You should see dirty brown water coming out of the bottom of the coil. Repeat this process until the water running off the coil is clean. Let the unit dry for about 10 minutes. Then turn it back on.
Any other problems are most likely going to need to be handled by a repairperson, but here are a few things you can do to make sure your air conditioning unit runs better for longer:
- Have your central A/C system tuned up about once per year. The air conditioning tech will test the refrigerant, clean the unit, and make sure all its components are in working order. This may cost money periodically, but it should help prevent more serious and expensive problems from cropping up.
TIP: As stated above, you can save yourself some money by replacing filters and cleaning the unit prior to the arrival of the A/C tech.
- Once per year, use lightweight, non-detergent oil to lubricate the fan motor. This will keep it running smoothly. Your owner's manual should give you instructions on how to do this; if not, ask an A/C tech to show you, so you can do it yourself in the future.
- If your air conditioning unit has been shut down for a while (i.e. through fall and winter), power it up for about 24 hours before actually using it. This will give the oil a chance to separate from the refrigerant in the compressor.
Now that you know how to diagnose and fix simple air conditioner problems and to keep it properly maintained, you can feel confident that your house will be nice and cool whenever you need it to be.