With its desert climate, Las Vegas is one of the hottest cities in the United States during the summer. In July, temperatures can soar up to 115 degrees Fahrenheit, making locals think twice about stepping outside their homes. Indeed, staying indoors with your HVAC system running at full blast may be the most effective way to beat the summer heat. However, you have to make sure that your HVAC unit is in good enough condition to withstand the additional strain that comes with extended use throughout the summer. A poorly maintained air-conditioner not only struggles to keep your home cool and comfortable; it can also drive up your energy bills. Follow these tips to get your HVAC system ready for the sweltering summer months.
1. Replace the Filters
Changing the filter is one of the easiest, but most important, HVAC maintenance tasks. Regardless of type, size, or model, every air-conditioning system has an air filter. If you don’t replace the filter regularly, it can collect dirt, dust, grime, mold, mildew, and bacteria. This can result in weak airflow and poor air quality. Additionally, when the filter is clogged, your HVAC unit has to work harder and consume more energy to deliver cooled air throughout your home. As such, you can expect your utility bills to go up.
So, how often should you change the filter? It depends on the type of HVAC system you own and your lifestyle. If you’re using a central air-conditioning system, you should check the filter once every 30 to 60 days. It’s recommended that you change it once a month if you have kids or pets or once every two or three months if you don’t.
Before you start replacing the air filter, you need to know exactly where it’s located… The location of the filter depends on the type of air-conditioner you’re using. If you have an oversized wall-mounted return-air register, you’ll likely find the filter under the grille. If your unit is installed in a utility closet, then the filter may be in the air-handler cabinet. Horizontal or upflow systems in attics or basements typically have a one-foot filter rack behind a removable door.
Whether the filter in your HVAC system is located behind a grille or in a cabinet, you’ll probably have to remove screws to access it. An external filter rack can be accessed by pulling the handle on its metal door. After removing the screws, make sure you place them in a location where you can easily find them later.
Next, remove the filter and put it in the trash can, so that the dirt on it won’t scatter throughout your home. To correctly place the new filter in your HVAC system, look at the arrow that shows which way is up. Usually, disposable filters have an area for writing down the date on which you change the filter or need to change the filter. After writing the date, place the new filter in your unit and put the air-handler cover or register grille back on.
2. Clean the Coils
The coils in your HVAC system serve the important purpose of producing cool air. There are two kinds of coils in an air-conditioner. The evaporator coils absorb heat from the air in your home, while the condenser coils discharge the heat into your outdoor space. If these coils are covered with dirt and grime, they won’t be able to transfer heat effectively. This can lead to a variety of problems, such as higher energy consumption, system overheating, and compressor failure.
How often you need to clean your HVAC coils depends on a number of factors, including the age, condition, and location of your system and frequency of use. In general, HVAC experts recommend cleaning the coils at least once a year.
If you’re using a window air-conditioner, you can access the coils from the back of the unit, which is the end that juts out from your home. In a central HVAC system, the coils are usually located behind a removable panel. If you can’t find the coils in your unit, you can refer to the owner’s manual, which has diagrams showing the location of the coils and instructions for accessing them.
After you’ve located the coils, check them for large debris such as leaves, clods of dirt, and spider webs. Remove the debris by hand and dust the coils using a coil brush, which you can purchase from most HVAC and hardware stores. Gently guide the brush parallel to the coil fins, so that you won’t bend them.
Then, spray foaming coil cleaner directly into the coils until they are completely covered in foam. The foam will remove all the dirt and grime that accumulated between the fins. Allow the cleaner to soak for about 10 minutes before rinsing it off with a hose.
If you have an indoor HVAC unit, you can use a “no-rinse” coil cleaner instead of a foaming coil cleaner. This type of cleaner can help you avoid leaving a puddle in your indoor space.
3. Clear the Area Around Your Outdoor Condenser
If your HVAC system has an outdoor condenser, you have to make sure the area around it is clean and clear. Nearby structures, objects, and plants can block airflow to the condenser and prevent your air-conditioner from reaching optimal performance. If this continues, it can lead to overheating and cause severe damage to the system. Additionally, debris can get into the condenser and damage the fan in it or add another layer of grime on the coils. This can also make the unit less effective.
Go outside and check if there’s anything touching or blocking the condenser. If you find any plants, branches, leaves, rocks, mulch, or objects near the unit, you should remove them completely. Trim any trees or shrubs that may grow too close to it. A good rule of thumb is to create around two feet of open space around your condenser so that you can prevent debris from getting into the machine.
You should do this from time to time during the course of the year. If you wait until spring or autumn to clean the area, materials that have been accumulating inside the condenser all year may have made their way to different parts of the indoor unit, making it harder to clean your system thoroughly.
4. Clean and Inspect the Air Ducts
Air ducts transport conditioned air from your HVAC system to your indoor space. If you do not clean them regularly, they’ll collect dirt and dust and worsen the air quality in your home. Mold, mildew, fungi, and bacteria that accumulate in your ducts can cause a variety of health problems, ranging from allergic reactions to respiratory problems.
Additionally, if there’s grime buildup or debris in your air ducts, it can hinder airflow from your air-conditioning unit to your home, resulting in a less comfortable environment and increased strain on the system. You should also look out for leaks in your ducts because they can lead to energy waste and consequently higher utility bills.
If you want your air ducts to be cleaned, inspected, or repaired, it’s best to call in an HVAC technician. You’ll likely have a hard time getting to the ducts because they’re usually located behind walls and ceilings. Even if you can access them, you may not be able to clean or inspect them thoroughly. Someone who has little or no experience inspecting air ducts won’t know what signs of damage to look for, leaving certain problems undetected. If your ducts have leaks, holes, or loose joints, avoid repairing them yourself. Fixing them incorrectly may cause further damage to them, which can worsen your HVAC system’s effectiveness.
5. Look for Refrigerant Leaks
The refrigerant in your HVAC system circulates in a closed system and won’t be used up. If there’s a drop in refrigerant levels, it means you have a leak. The leak can be caused by a variety of reasons, including normal wear and tear, corrosion, and accidental damage.
It’s important to fix a refrigerant leak as soon as possible because the refrigerant is poisonous and can interfere with the oxygen levels in your body. Some health risks that are linked to refrigerant leaks include breathing difficulty, lung problems, and organ failure. Additionally, a refrigerant leak can undermine your HVAC system’s ability to cool your home and cause damage to the compressor, which can be costly to repair.
Fortunately, it’s relatively easy to detect refrigerant leaks. The leaks usually occur in three areas: the evaporator coils, condenser coils, and refrigerant line sets. Check these areas if you notice the following signs:
- The temperature in your home is significantly different from the thermostat setting.
- Your HVAC system runs longer than usual.
- Your air vents are emitting slightly cool or warm air.
- Your utility bills have skyrocketed.
If you find that your HVAC system is leaking refrigerant, you should contact an HVAC technician as soon as possible. Fixing refrigerant leaks is a task that’s best left in the hands of a professional because refrigerant is poisonous and must be handled carefully.
6. Clean the Condensate Line
Besides removing warm air, your HVAC system also extracts moisture from your home. The condensate line drains the moisture to ensure that it doesn’t accumulate in the air-conditioner. However, it can become clogged over time because of mold and algae growth. If this happens, it can cause the evaporator coil to freeze, resulting in a damaged system. Also, excess moisture can lead to leaks, which can damage your drywalls, ceilings, electrical wiring, and furniture.
If you see water dripping from your HVAC unit, coming from your exhaust fans, or accumulating around the cabinet, it’s likely that your condensate line is clogged. To clean your condensate line, you need to have a small towel or rags, general cleaning solution, warm water, funnel, and a wet/dry vacuum cleaner.
Turn off your HVAC system first before you start cleaning. After that, locate the condensate line, which is usually under the indoor or outdoor unit. Use the vacuum cleaner to remove the excess moisture and clog. Then, look for the condensate line’s access point, which is a small vent with PVC piping. Flush the line with warm water and cleaning solution and let it sit for about 30 minutes.
While you can do the aforementioned maintenance tasks yourself, you should consider the option of calling in an HVAC technician. Besides helping you save time and effort, a trained professional will give you the peace of mind that the tasks will be performed correctly. Additionally, he or she will thoroughly inspect your HVAC system to detect and fix any potential issues before they develop into costly problems. If you’re looking for a reputable HVAC service provider to service your HVAC system, call The Cooling Company at (702) 790-8277.