If you own a home with central air conditioning in Boston, you’ll need to do some maintenance each year and throughout the cooling season to keep your home cool and your air conditioner in good shape. Sometimes, problems with your A/C will require the attention of a professional, but there are steps you can take to ensure that you stay cool during a hot Boston summer.
At the beginning of the season, you’ll want to make sure your air conditioning unit is free from debris that may have accumulated during the fall and winter months. This doesn’t require any special tools, but you’ll want to make sure that the power to the unit is off before working in and around the exterior cabinet. You can turn off the compressor unit’s power at the main circuit breaker panel simply by flipping the breaker to the off position. Usually, there’s a wall switch located inside the home near the compressor that performs the same function.
Remove leaves and other organic matter that may have accumulated near the unit before removing the cover for your air conditioner. You can wash the cover off with a hose if it seems particularly dirty.
Once the cover is off, you’ll need to take particular care with the silver-colored fins that reside under the unit’s cover. These fins are very soft and can be bent easily. Bent fins decrease the efficiency of the air conditioner, so keeping these soft metal parts intact is very important. These fins will “crush” quite easily, even with fingertip pressure, so a light touch is absolutely required.
If debris is lodged in the fins, use a very soft brush to remove or dislodge it, since accumulation here will also reduce the efficiency of the unit. A shop vacuum may also do the trick. You can wash the fins with a hose, (skip the power washer) but you’ll need to protect the other parts of the unit from getting wet. Avoid washing the unit with a hose if you’re trying to check for leaks. Reattach the cover and restore power to the unit. Test the unit for normal operation by turning it on to see if it cools.
Your air conditioner works by removing moisture from the surrounding air. Your air conditioner could develop problems if it can’t drain away the moisture it’s condensing. Check all of the hoses, pipes and connections for your air conditioning unit for leaks and cracks. Also check the condensate tube to make sure it isn’t plugged.
Your air conditioner’s drainpipe will lead to a floor drain or sump pump well. Over time, debris and sediment can build up in the pipe, causing reduced drainage. You can use a shop vacuum for this. If you’ve neglected the air conditioner for a while, debris in the drain system may be a real problem. You can back flush a clogged drain with a hose, but this will deposit a lot of nasty material into your floor drain or sump well. Long-standing debris may cause your drainage system to rust. In this case, parts of your air conditioner may need to be replaced. If you’re shy about removing clogs from your air conditioner drain, or suspect a leaky connection or broken pipe, Boston Standard Plumbing can assist you with more significant air conditioning system repairs.
If you don’t find any evidence of water leaks, and your drain is clear, you may need to have the refrigerant in the unit replaced. This should only be done by a professional HVAC servicing company. Due to environmental restrictions, refrigerant should not be permitted to escape during the recharge process. A trained professional has the equipment needed to restore the refrigerant safely.
Finally, change the filter often – usually on a 3-6 week cycle. The filter will catch pollens and molds, but you don’t want these things to build up in your home’s duct-work. Changing the air conditioning filter often will discourage this. If someone in your home suffers from seasonal allergies, consider changing the filter more often than the manufacturer recommends to reduce their exposure to mold, mildew and pollen trapped in the air conditioning system.
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