With summer around the corner and most people having to stay indoors for much of the time, it’s important that the air conditioner is in good working order. This is true whether it’s a central air conditioning system or a humble room unit.

The thing is, even a humble room unit isn’t so humble. Cooling the air in a room is a complex process, much more involved than heating it. In simple terms, the unit pulls in air, removes heat from it then expels that heat to the outside along with condensation. Because of this, the AC has a variety of parts that need to work well to keep a room comfortable during a sweltering summer. Here are five tips and tricks for keeping an AC in top shape:

1. Get the System Maintenance At Least Once a Year

The best way to make sure the AC runs the way it should is to have an HVAC, or heating, ventilation and air conditioning professional check it at least once a year, ideally well before you need it to work.

During a check-up, the HVAC specialist will do an overall inspection to see if the electrical connections are sound and that there are no leaks in seals or leaks of refrigerant. They’ll also clean the coils and the motor that drives the blower, and end the inspection with an operation test to make sure all is well.

Some homeowners sign a service contract with their HVAC specialist. This allows the maintenance trips to be scheduled automatically for a monthly fee. The service contract also gives the customer priority during emergencies and when it comes to obtaining information on energy-efficient, money-saving HVAC systems and appliances.

2. Clean the Coils

The coils in the air conditioners hold refrigerant that absorbs heat and helps to “make the cold” to cool the air in a room. If they become too dirty, the refrigerant can’t absorb as much heat as it should. This causes the air conditioning to work harder, which can reduce its life span. To clean the coils, first remove leaves and other debris from the outside condenser unit. Then, take a look at the coils to see if there’s any damage. If there is, a professional should be called in.

You can remove any debris such as dead grass or leaves with a coil brush then use the garden hose to wet the coils down. After that, apply a coil cleaner. This cleaner comes as a foam and should be left to sit for about 5 to 10 minutes before it’s washed off gently. Be sure not to bend the fins with too strong a stream of water.

3. Straighten the Fins

The fins are part of the AC’s condenser and evaporator, and they regulate the airflow. After time and use, the fins can become bent, but you can carefully straighten them with a fin comb. Straightening the fins also allows more debris to be removed.

4. Check the Condensate Drain

Moisture is a by-product of removing heat from the air, and the moisture is vented to the outside through the condensate drain. Like the drain in the kitchen sink or bathtub, the condensation drain can clog up, which stops it from releasing moisture. In a window unit, one sign of this is a puddle on the floor of the room. If the clog is bad enough, it can cause the system or unit to stop working altogether.

To clean out a small clog, cut off the power to the entire HVAC system, then find the AC’s cleaning port. Take off the cap, then with gloved hands pull out the clog. A snake can also be used. Then, pour a solution of soapy warm water or vinegar and water into the drainpipe until it’s full. If the solution flows out of the condensation drain, the clog is gone.

Read More: 5 Energy Efficiency Tactics

5. Change the Air Filter

Of all the tips that can keep an AC system in good order, changing the air filter is probably the easiest thing to do. A clean filter keeps pollutants such as dust, pollen and mold spores out of the house, but a filter’s efficiency goes down if it’s not changed at least once a month. Some households need to change their air filter even more than once a month because someone smokes or a member has allergies. Air filters are inexpensive and can be bought in packs.

Scheduling yearly maintenance, cleaning the coils, changing the filters, checking the condensate drain and straightening crooked fins are things that you can do to make sure your AC system can handle the coming hot months. With regular maintenance, an air conditioner can last as longs as 15 years.

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