Now that warmer weather has arrived in central Illinois, many residents are turning on their air conditioners for the first time in several months. Spring is the best time of year to have an annual maintenance inspection on the air conditioner. It can prevent mechanical failure that could happen during the dog days of summer, and gives you benefit from the increased efficiency all season long. It is important that both the furnace and air conditioner receive routine maintenance to maintain optimum performance and condition to extend the life of the units. The following list shows some things to look for when performing annual maintenance, and be sure to take note of items that can easily be performed by the homeowner or tenant.
- Clean the area around the condensor pad of leaves, weeds, and other debris. [Homeowner]
- Clean the coils around the condensor and straighten any bent fins
- Verify the correct refrigerant charge
- Supply and Return register grills should remain clean and unobstructed [Homeowner]
- Replace the filter regularly as directed [Homeowner]
- Clean the fan blower’s blades
- Every 2 to 4 years, the evaporator coil and condensate pan should be cleaned
- Straighten bent fins in the evaporator coil
- Check belts for tightness and deterioration
- Check wiring for loose connections
- Clean condensate line
- Keep motors oiled
Q: Who should I call for maintenance?
A: While heating and cooling contractors receive specialized training from the manufacturer’s of the equipment they sell, there are not so many differences between one air conditioner and another that a contractor can’t service other equipment. So, if you have a Carrier or a Trane unit, you do not necessarily have to call a contractor that sells those brands. There is a wide variety of contractors in the market and choosing the one with the lowest prices may not be in the best interest of your pocketbook in the long run. Look for a contractor who sells on the quality of their service and equipment and can offer warranties. Consider using the Better Business Bureau web site in order to see how your prospective contractor has handled problems in the past.
Q: What do you look for in an energy audit to keep the home cool?
During an energy audit, a consultant’s goal is to recommend measures that will keep the home comfortable all year. The keep the home cool in the summer, there are many areas that are evaluated that will impact how much the air conditioner must run.
Using a thermal imaging camera, they will evaluate how well insulation is performing in the attic, exterior walls,
and the basement. Consider that insulation provides a barrier between the conditioned air inside the house and outdoors (or in the attic). To keep a house at 72 degrees when the attic temperature is 120 or 140 degrees, the house needs a level of insulation in the attic that can meet that demand. As homeowners upgrade their existing home or are purchasing a new home, the typical goal is to reach an insulation value of R-49 in the attic.
Even a well insulated house can have problems if air sealing was not performed at the same time. The energy auditor will look for hidden points of air leakage that is sending that cool, conditioned air to the great outdoors.
Even if the air conditioner is working properly, the cool air may not be getting to the registers if there are problems with the duct work; our consultants measure and diagnose air flow in order to suggest the most cost effective approach to fix any issues.
In some cases, the air conditioner is not sized correctly to meet the needs of the house; it could be oversized or undersized. When looking at replacing a unit, it is always important to make sure a load calculation is performed on the house to assess the actual cooling needs. Load calculations incorporate elements such as insulation levels, windows, orientation to the sun, and shading from deciduous trees in order to select the right equipment.
Stay cool out there!