I’ve lived in Arizona for my whole life, but I have never known a summer as miserable as last year’s. It’s not that it was any hotter or dryer that usual. It’s that our central air broke not once, not twice, but three times. I know I’m not the only one who has had this happen. Something like three quarters of homeowners in the Western U.S. have central AC, and most of them use programmable thermostats, like we do. Don’t get me wrong– I love central air, but I hate, no, LOATHE having to call for home AC repair.
The kicker is that we can’t really even complain. We wouldn’t have needed so many central air repairs if we had been more diligent about maintaining our system, but honestly, we didn’t even know that was a thing. Luckily, our air conditioner service company walked us through after round three (we’re close personal friends now) to help us learn how to avoid heating and air conditioning repair by taking care of our system. I am a firm believer that nobody should have to shell out for three fixes in one summer, so consider this my gift to you. Everything I know about maintaining a central air system.
Clean the Evaporator
- Where is it? Above the furnace, in the plenum.
- How do I do it? Take off the insulation, unscrew the access plate, and use a stiff brush to clean the whole underside. Clean the tray under the unit, and then pour a tablespoon of bleach into the hole.
- How often? Once a year.
Maintain the Condenser
- Where is it? Outside.
- How do I do it? Cut the grass or other plant life that’s grown around it. Clean it with commercial coil cleaner, flush the coil clean, and let dry. Clean the fins with a soft brush and make sure the concrete pad the condenser sits on is level.
- How often? Cut the grass once a month. Clean it once a year.
Caring for the Fan
- Where is it? In an individual room.
- How do I do it? Open the cabinet and clean debris away with a vacuum and soft cloth. Check the fan blade for looseness and tighten it if necessary. If there are oil ports, apply several drops of 20-weight nondetergent motor oil to each port.
- How often? At the beginning of every cooling season.
The home AC repair technician also gave us a pamphlet about solar energy, and we’ve been giving it some thought. We’re definitely looking to save a little money, especially on our energy bills, and the pamphlet mentions that water heating alone makes up 25% of the energy a single family home uses. Germany has the most residential solar panels in the world right now, but there are actually a number in the southwest as well. In fact, the cost of solar panel installation has dropped by about 40% already. For now, we’ll stick with what we have, especially now that we know how to maintain it better and avoid home AC repair calls, but I think solar panels are where we’ll go eventually.
Three home AC repair calls in one summer is way too many, but we’re hoping that next year will go a little more smoothly, now that we know how to keep our units clean and functional. Do you guys have any other tips? More on this topic.