The desert gives homeowners a unique opportunity to bask in the beauty and quiet solitude of cacti, agave, and rugged terrain, but the desert makes a hard living for your air conditioner. Even so, frequent maintenance can keep your air conditioner running its best despite the harsh conditions. Much of the maintenance that your air conditioner requires can be easily completed by the average homeowner, though there are a few things that should be left to the experts.
The most important thing you can do for your air conditioner is to keep the filter clean! When your air filter clogs, it reduces air flow to your air handler, making it harder and harder for the air conditioner to cool your home. Check your filter at least once a month and change it any time it starts to look dirty. Investing in an electrostatic filter can save you hundreds of dollars in disposable filters. You can simply wash the filter’s dirt away rather than throwing another disposable filter in the trash.
A clean air filter not only promotes cooler air circulation in your home, it helps decrease airborne pollutants over time. Each time you change or clean your filter, you’re taking that much dust, pollen, dander and debris out of your house. If you keep your home closed up most of the time, your air will get cleaner with each successive filter change.
Depending on where your air conditioner’s condensing unit is located, you might want to hire help for outside maintenance. Outside units that are roof-mounted present a myriad of challenges that start with having to climb up and down a ladder. Both rooftop mounted units and ground installed units require basically the same care.
Start by examining the outside of your unit. Do you see a lot of bent fins, or debris clinging to the unit? A shopping bag caught in the breeze may find your air conditioner wildly attractive, or native plants may sprout nearby to take advantage of the little bit of condensation your unit may put off. Clear everything off of the outside of your unit, use a fin comb to straighten the fins out, and then grab your garden hose.
You should be thoroughly cleaning your condensing unit at least twice a year, more often if you live in an area with a lot of dust. With the power off, start by rinsing the unit, inside and out, then apply a more forceful spray to the fins to knock loosened dust away. Unclogging your unit this way allows it to more efficiently use its refrigerant, keeping your home cooler for less money.
Next, check the insulation on your coolant line. If it’s intact and fits well, there’s nothing else to do, but if it’s sagging, ripped, falling apart or otherwise tattered, replace it with a new section and tape the new insulation together firmly.
Your condensing unit is exposed to the elements constantly, so it definitely needs attention, but don’t neglect your air handler, either. Although cleaning the evaporator coil is a job best left to the professionals, the drain coming from the evaporator coil’s catch pan is a point of interest in your maintenance tour. This seemingly insignificant rubber or plastic line makes a huge difference to your comfort. When it’s blocked, water backs up and humidity builds.
You can prevent your drain from backing up or your evaporator coil’s catch pan from overflowing by cleaning out the drain line when you change your filter. Simply pull the line off the outlet coming from your air handler and run a thin, stiff brush inside to open up any clogs before pouring a vinegar or bleach solution through the line to kill algae and bacterial colonies. If your line is particularly difficult to access or remove, you may want to install a clean-out to make this chore much easier.
Air conditioning is vital to desert living — it’s important to maintain your system to get the most use from it for the least amount of energy. You should have your air conditioner professionally checked at least twice a year, but there’s a lot you can do yourself between those visits to keep it running smoothly..
We want to help you learn about about all things air conditioning and heating! Have any questions or want to see us write about something? Give us a call, chat, or email and we'll do our best to help you out.