Even though summer is winding down in Tybee Island, GA, there are still a few heat waves to get through. If you’ve taken all the cool air your air conditioner provides for granted this summer, now is a good time to follow some preventative maintenance tips to save you money, energy, and future trouble.

Visually Inspect the Outside Unit

The unit that is typically located outside of your home is called the condensing unit. Since it sits outside, it’s open to leaves, cut grass, dirt, and other debris that can clog the airflow and reduce the efficiency of the unit. The fins inside your unit are very delicate, and it’s best to leave the cleaning to a professional.

However, you can take a look at your unit and see if there is any dirt or debris that needs to be cleaned off. You should also listen to your outdoor unit as it’s running to see if it’s making any strange sounds or running an unusual cycle. If so, the efficiency of your unit is compromised, and a professional can diagnose what’s wrong with the unit.

Trim Plants Away From Outside Unit

As you inspect your outside air conditioning unit, you should also take a look at the plants surrounding the unit. The weeds, grass, shrubs, and bushes around the unit have had all summer to grow. If they get too high and they block the airflow to your unit, it could clog and stop working.

Take the time to pull the weeds, cut the grass, and trim back the bushes around your unit so it stays clear. Also, take a look at any tree branches that are hanging above the unit. If you see some that look like they could break off during a storm and hit your unit, it’s wise to trim them now and prevent that problem from ever occurring.

Change the Filters

The filter in your air conditioning unit is the barricade between debris on the outside and the important parts of the air conditioning unit on the inside. After a summer of running every day to keep your house cool, the filters in your unit will need to be cleaned or replaced. Not only does a clean filter give you better air to breathe, but it also cuts down on the overall strain on your unit and lets it run more efficiently.

However, there are plenty of other reasons why it’s so important to replace the air filter. A dirty filter can cause one of the most expensive parts of your air conditioning unit, the blower motor, to strain and eventually need to be replaced. A clogged filter also leads to a problem called air bypass. This is where unfiltered air is able to continually circulate through the ductwork. This lets dust accumulate inside the ducts so that they’ll eventually need to be cleaned.

For the best performance from your unit, the filter should be cleaned or replaced every month. For units where you simply replace the filter, it’s important to get the exact size your unit takes. On the other hand, for units with a reusable filter, simply wash the filter with soapy water and allow it to dry before you place it back in the unit.

Check the Belts

Your outdoor air conditioning unit has fan belts that are crucial to having your unit run properly. Unfortunately, because these belts are outside, they’re exposed to weather and debris, and they can wear down over time. As you’re doing a visual inspection of your unit, you should also note what condition the fan belts are in. If you notice the fan belts have a crack in them, call your HVAC professional to come repair the piece.

Inspect the Coolant Lines

The coolant lines run from the evaporator to the outside condenser. Usually, these tubes are wrapped in foam insulation so they don’t lose efficiency or energy. Take a look at these lines and see if any of the insulation is missing, torn, or frayed. If so, it’s necessary to replace the insulation to help your unit continue to run at its highest level.

Damaged or missing insulation can also open the door for ice to form on the unit. Not only can this ice lead to damage to your unit, but it can also promote the growth of mildew and mold. However, you’ll have to contact a professional for this job since the type of insulation that protects these lines is not sold in home center stores.

Look for Pooling Water

The inside of an air conditioning unit has evaporator coils where moisture accumulates. This moisture is eliminated from the unit to a drainage area through a condensation pipe. This typically happens either by a motor pump or by gravity. However, sometimes grime or algae can clog this condensation pipe and prevent the water from flowing out freely.

If you notice a pool of water forming under your air conditioning unit, you may have a clog in the condensation pipe. If the clog becomes serious, it could cause water to back up into your air conditioning unit and cause expensive damage. An HVAC professional can use special tools to clean out this pipe and let the excess water flow away from the unit again.

Check the Ducts and Vents

Along with inspecting certain parts of the air conditioning unit, you should also walk through your house and take a look at the ducts and vents. You’ve had an entire summer to rearrange furniture, pile boxes, and otherwise block the vents around your house.

Not only do these obstructions prevent cool air from entering the room, but they force your air conditioning unit to work even harder. While you’re inspecting your vents, you should also keep an eye out for any holes in your duct work. Cool air can seep out of these holes and cost you extra money to cool your house.

Update Your Thermostat

If you run through a cycle with your unit and you notice that it seems to be running longer than normal or shuts off before the house is comfortable, the unit might not be to blame. Instead, you may have issues with the thermostat. Take a look at where the thermostat is located in your house. If it’s close to a warm kitchen, in direct sunlight, or directly in line with an air vent, you might want to consider having an HVAC professional move it to a better location.

Additionally, if you don’t have a programmable thermostat, you can also consider having a professional install one. This type of thermostat will let you create a schedule for automatically cooling a house. You can set the thermostat to a warmer temperature for nighttime or when no one if home. You can also set the thermostat to start cooling down the house just before you arrive home, so it’s already comfortable before you walk in the door.

Upgrade Your Unit

Every year, new air conditioning models are coming out that are more efficient and less wasteful than earlier units. If your unit is a few years old, it might be a good idea to upgrade to a new model. Keep in mind that bigger isn’t always better when it comes to air conditioning units.

When you’re looking for a new model, it’s important that you get one that’s the proper size for your house. If it’s too big, the unit will cycle on and off more frequently. When this happens, you run the risk of having the unit malfunction, and you’ll burn more energy. On the other hand, you also don’t want a unit that’s too small and won’t have enough power to cool your house. An HVAC professional can inspect your house and calculate the exact unit size you need to run efficiently.

While fall might be just around the corner, there are still a few more summer heat waves to get through before your air conditioning unit can take a break. If you want to make sure your unit will keep going strong, contact Byrd Heating and Air Conditioning at 912-373-8447 and schedule your late summer air conditioning maintenance and service.

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