Read through the air conditioning resources below to discover how to maximize your unit’s efficiency and maintain your air conditioner properly.

How Air Conditioners Work

Air conditioners work in a similar way to your home refrigerator, just on a larger scale. The cooling process works as a compressor pump forces a heat transfer fluid (or refrigerant) between two copper coils: the evaporator (the cooler, indoor coil) and the condenser (the hotter, outdoor coil). The refrigerant pulls heat out of the indoor air through the evaporator and releases that heat through the outdoor condenser. This cooled air is then pumped into your home to provide comfort and relief from the summer heat.

Types of Air Conditioners

The three most common types of air conditioners are room air conditioners, split-system central air conditioners, and packaged central air conditioners.

Room Air Conditioners

Rather than cooling your entire home, room air conditioners only cool a particular room or area. Since room ACs only cool where they’re needed, they are less expensive to operate than a central air unit, although their efficiency is generally lower. Smaller units (those that draw less than 7.5 amps of electricity) can be plugged into a regular electrical outlet, but larger room air conditioners may need their own dedicated circuit, possibly with higher voltage.

Split-System Central Air Conditioners

Central air conditioners (whether split-system or packaged) circulate cool air throughout your home via a system of supply and return ducts, providing even comfort and relief in every room. In a split-system central air conditioner, an outdoor metal cabinet holds the compressor and condenser coils, while an indoor cabinet contains the evaporator coils.

In many split-system AC units, the evaporator coil is installed in the main supply duct of your furnace or the indoor aspects of a heat pump. If your home already has a furnace but no air conditioner, a split-system is the most economical central AC to install.

Packaged Central Air Conditioners

Packaged central AC units house the compressor, evaporator and condenser in one outdoor cabinet, usually on your roof or next to your home’s foundation. Air supply and return ducts connect to the unit either through an exterior wall or the roof.

Often, packaged central air conditioners include electric heating coils or a natural gas furnace, eliminating the need for a separate indoor furnace.

Air Conditioner Maintenance Tips

If you treat your air conditioning system right – even an older AC unit – it gives you years of good air conditioning service and efficient use. However, making your older air conditioner last requires proper operation and maintenance of your system. If you ignore these air conditioner tips, eventually you pay the price for a more costly repair or a brand-new unit.

Problems to Avoid

The first step of proper AC maintenance is knowing what problems to look for and how to avoid them. Key problems to look for, prevent and discuss with your HVAC technician include:

  • Leaking air ducts
  • Low airflow from your air conditioner
  • Refrigerant leaks
  • Under- or overcharged refrigerant
  • Corrosion of electrical connections and contacts on your unit
  • Electric control failure

Regular Maintenance

Dirt and neglect are the most frequent causes of a cooling system failure, so the most important step of any preventative AC maintenance plan is to have a regular AC tune-up and cleaning each spring.

Before the hot Texas summer starts simmering, have your system checked by an HVAC maintenance expert. The right cleaning addresses small problems before they become bigger ones – saving you from an AC breakdown on the hottest day of the year.

Not all AC servicing is equal, though. Be sure your air conditioner tune-up includes these important aspects:

  • Evaporator and condenser coil cleaning: Air conditioning coils collect dirt in their years of service, reducing airflow and their ability to cool your home. Outdoor condenser coils also get dirty if the environment is dusty or if too much foliage is near your unit. Each year, remove any debris that builds up around your AC unit and trim any foliage back at least 2 feet (0.6 meters) to allow for adequate airflow.
  • Coil fins: The aluminum fins on evaporator and condenser coils are easily bent, blocking airflow through the coil. Double-check that your HVAC technician uses a fin comb to restore these fins back to their original placement and condition.

Air Conditioner Filters

Clogged, dirty air filters block normal airflow and reduce your cooling system’s efficiency significantly, so it’s important to routinely replace or clean your AC filters. During the cooling season, you should clean or replace your AC filter at least once a month or every other month. However, your filters may require more attention if the air conditioner is in constant use, is subjected to dusty conditions or if you have pets with fur in the house.

Usually, a filter is located somewhere along the length of the return duct, but an HVAC technician should always be able to point it out if you are unable to find it. Filters are available in a variety of types and efficiencies: Some types are reusable after cleaning, while others need to be replaced.

Air Duct Maintenance

For central air conditioning systems to be efficient, all ducts must be airtight. However, the average central air system leaks 10% to 30% of its cooled air – that’s cooling you’re paying for but aren’t receiving in comfort.

Since leaky ducts are difficult to detect without experience and test equipment, hiring an HVAC professional is a good investment. In his or her review and repair of your ductwork, check that he or she addresses the following issues:

  • He or she should seal ducts with mastic – the old standby of duct tape is ineffective.
  • He or she shouldn’t just repair leaks, but also remove obstructions. A good air duct cleaning removes obstructions that impair the efficiency of your cooling system.
  • He or she should check for obstructions outside of ducts, as well. Anything from furniture or drapes to tightly fitted interior doors blocks airflow to return registers.
  • He or she should make sure your attic ducts are heavily insulated. Even without leaks, the temperature difference between attics and AC ducts costs you in energy loss.

By putting these AC maintenance and repair tips into practice, you’ll appreciate the savings you discover in your utility bill and overall air conditioning repair costs. Proper installation, servicing, filtration and duct maintenance are all key to the cost-effective operation of your air conditioning unit – keeping your utility bills low and your home comfortably cool.

Have more questions about AC maintenance or repair? Click below to connect with a Comfort Consultant from On Time Experts and beat the Dallas heat this summer.

Meet the Author
Randy Kelley
Randy Kelley


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