Air conditioning systems are complex machines filled with wires, coils, fans and electrical components. Even the most experienced DIYers should not attempt A/C repairs.
However, there are some maintenance tasks that the average homeowner with minimal DIY skills can perform to improve the efficiency of their cooling system. None of these require screwdrivers, pliers, gauges, multimeters or other tools – just bare hands and a little time.
Follow these eight DIY tips to keep your A/C system cool and efficient throughout the summer:
• Change the air filter. Air filters are easy to access and easy to replace. A/C manufacturers often recommend changing the air filter every 30 days. Those without pets or a lot of household activity typically can wait a little longer, perhaps two to three months.
• Install a programmable thermostat. Older thermostats required someone to physically move a lever to lower or raise the temperature. Today, homeowners can set designated nighttime, daytime, weekday and weekend temperatures. Smart thermostats allow homeowners to control the temperature remotely through an app on their cell phones.
• Change the temperature. Experts recommend keeping a home a few degrees warmer during the day if no one is home. That is the hottest part of the day, and it’s when your system will work the hardest to keep up... and you’re not even home to enjoy the cool air! The U.S. Department of Energy notes that changing the temperature from its regular setting by 7-10 degrees for eight hours can save 10% annually on cooling costs. In Florida, it’s important to keep A/C systems running because they act as a dehumidifier, which makes interiors feel comfortable while reducing the likelihood of mold and mildew growth.
• Move appliances and lamps away from the thermostat. The thermostat measures the temperature and kicks the A/C system on or off based on that reading. Any device that emits warm air will inflate the temperature in that area.
• Close window blinds during the day. When sunlight hits windows, it acts as a heater for a room. The energy department notes 76% of sunlight that hits windows becomes heat. Keep the blinds or window shades closed during the day, especially on sides of the home that receive direct sunlight.
• Shade the outdoor unit. The outdoor compressor and condenser should be shaded, if possible. However, branches and bushes can restrict air flow, so the unit must have a little space to breathe. Check for debris like fallen leaves and twigs that can reduce air flow.
• Vacuum air vents. Vents should be kept clean to remove dust buildup. Debris can restrict air flow while potentially reducing indoor air quality.
• Seal openings. The front door and door leading from the garage into the home might not have a tight seal. Hot air from the outside can flow through any openings or gaps. Weatherstripping fills in the gaps and is inexpensive and simple to install.
In addition to these DIY tasks, A/C systems still need preventative maintenance from a professional. In fact, manufacturer’s warranties often require proof of regular maintenance before covering the cost of parts and labor.
A technician’s maintenance checklist containing dozens of tasks, including confirming a proper cooling and temperature split, cleaning and/or replacing the air filter, flushing and cleaning the condensation drains, cleaning the primary drain pan, cleaning the outdoor coil, testing all safety sensors and switches, completing electrical testing of all unit connections and components, monitoring refrigerant pressures, inspecting and cleaning the indoor coil and blower wheel, adjusting the thermostat calibration; lubricating all moving parts, checking for proper air flow and inspecting the duct system, cleaning the condensation pump and replacing batteries in all thermostats.
An efficient A/C system saves on monthly energy costs and extends the life of a unit while also keeping your family cool during the dog days of summer.