I always took my home's heating and cooling system for granted. That is until I found myself battling one of the hottest days in years and my air conditioner simply refused to turn on. After contacting my local HVAC contractor, I learned that my cooling coils had frozen over from a lack of maintenance. He did get my AC back up and running that day, but he also helped me to look at my heating and cooling system in a whole new light. I have spent a lot of time over the last few years learning more about how to properly maintain my HVAC system and ultimately lower my energy costs. Today, I would like to share this knowledge with you so that I can help you to avoid some of the costly mistakes I have made in the past.
Air conditioners are durable, but are subject to the effects of wear and tear even when they aren't being used. If you are planning to shut down your air conditioner for longer than a few months, there are several things you can do to help protect it and keep it in good shape for when it's finally time to turn it back on.
Check Ducts and Replace Filter
One of the things that can cause the most trouble to an air conditioning system over time is dust, which can work its way in through gaps in your ducts. Your air filter, while also cleaning the air you breathe, is designed to protect your air conditioner's components from getting caked with dust and debris, which can cause damage and reduce efficiency. To that end, dust can still get in to your system even when you're not using it, which means that a great time to have your ducts inspected is before you plan to stop using your air conditioner. A professional can make sure they are sealed tight, preventing as much dust as possible from getting in, leaving your air conditioner in a much better operating capacity when it's time to use again.
Further, replacing your air filter is a fast and inexpensive way to help accomplish the same goal, especially if it was going to need a replacement soon regardless. Keeping your ducts clean and sealed will help keep an expensive and vital part of your system in good shape for much longer.
Cover it Correctly
Your outdoor unit is built tough to withstand the elements, but you can add an additional layer of protection to help keep it safe while it's not being used. The caveat is that it needs to be covered correctly, as using the wrong kind of covering methods can actually make some problems worse.
The best kinds of covers are ones that shield the top of your outdoor unit but leave the rest open to the air, such as a piece of plywood on top of the unit or an awning. Using something that completely covers the air conditioner can make it an attractive home for pests, and it can also hold in moisture rather than letting it evaporate, which can cause rust or mold growth. Using something primarily to cover the top will protect your air conditioner from blunt force damage such as that from hail or falling branches while allowing enough air flow to prevent any moisture damage.
Prepare to Replace Parts
No matter how well you prepare, you will likely need to have maintenance done or replace certain parts before the unit is usable again once it's time to turn it back on again. The coils will probably need to be cleaned, the motors lubricated, any belts and gaskets checked for signs of cracking or loosening, and the refrigerant should also be checked. If there were any even minor problems with your air conditioner before it was shut off, they have have gotten worse, even if not severely. Otherwise, most repairs and replacements should be fairly basic and involve inexpensive components.
Expect this maintenance to take a little longer and be more thorough than standard annual maintenance, but it's well worth it to make sure your air conditioner isn't damaged when you try to turn it on again. When you call a professional to help you prepare to shut it down, ask what parts will most likely need to be replaced; some parts, like belts or gaskets, can be purchased cheap, and may be worth keeping on hand to ensure a speedy replacement without needing to wait for parts when the time comes.
22 April 2020