Quick and Easy DIY Guide to Air Conditioner Maintenance

5.2 min readPublished On: April 15, 2022

Taking care of your home is vital to its longevity, but how much does regular home maintenance actually cost? Regularly performing air conditioning maintenance is necessary to keep your AC unit running optimally and minimize untimely repairs and replacements. Just like regular oil changes and inspections for your car can prevent thousands of dollars in engine repair, preventative maintenance can save you thousands in HVAC repair.

Benefits of preventative air conditioning maintenance

Simple, proactive care of your air conditioner can lead to a number of greater benefits.

Utility bill savings

According to the U.S Department of Energy, HVAC systems that run at peak efficiency (or as close to as possible) can save up to 30% on your energy bills.

Less expensive repairs

When you think of home maintenance what typically comes to mind? Maybe changing out air filters, servicing your Preventative maintenance helps catch minor issues, which means cheaper repair bills and prolonged life of your unit. The longer an improperly functioning unit is neglected, the more expensive repairs become.

Total breakdown prevention

The average cost of replacing an HVAC system is $7,000. The U.S Department of Energy states that costly breakdowns of HVAC systems can be reduced by 95% with regular maintenance.

Safer living

An air conditioning system on the outs can cause fires, poor air quality, improper humidity control leading to mold and mildew, and carbon monoxide poisoning.

Air Conditioning Maintenance DIY Tasks

Air conditioning units are part of your larger HVAC system, which is a complex connection of multiple units. While certain tasks should be left to the professionals, there are a handful of DIY AC maintenance tasks anyone can do with a little knowledge and the right tools.

Replace the filters

An easy and budget-friendly way to keep your air conditioner working efficiently is to replace your furnace filters on a routine basis. Dirty filters reduce airflow which affects the efficiency of the HVAC system as a whole. When airflow is obstructed by a clogged filter, debris can cling directly to the evaporator coil. When an evaporator coil is covered in dirt and debris it can’t effectively absorb heat, and this can lead to a leaking system that won’t cool your home and a pricey coil replacement.

HomeKeep recommends replacing your air filters at least every three months, but the number of home occupants, pets, smoking, dust from remodeling, and other circumstances could require more frequent changes. If you have a HomeKeep subscription we provide filters that fit your home and replace them for you every six months. All our filters are rated MERV 11 or higher, trapping pollen, smoke, mold, dust mites, lint, pet dander, bacteria, and other fine particles.

Clean the evaporator coil

Even with regular filter changes, the evaporator coil can still collect some dust and dirt. Inspect your coil every year and give it some TLC, or have a professional clean it as necessary. 

To clean your evaporator coil HomeKeep recommends the following steps:

  1. Use a soft brush to remove dirt from the coil
  2. Spray the coil with a no-rinse coil cleaning solution (If you don’t have any coil cleaner on hand, you can use a mixture of mild detergent and water)
  3. Clean the drain pan afterward with soap and hot water

Bonus: Add a drain pan tablet that helps prevent algae growth and prevents your drain line from clogging, eliminating sludge and smelly odors. HomeKeep provides water-soluble tablets that are biodegradable during appointments.

Clean the external air conditioner coils

Your outdoor air conditioning unit is exposed to the elements and can easily collect dirt on its fins from your dryer vent, nearby foliage, leaves, and debris from lawnmowing. Keeping the condenser coils clean ensures the heat can exchange efficiently, keeping energy bills low by preventing system overheating. 

To clean your condenser coils, HomeKeep recommends the following steps: 

  1. Turn off the unit power
  2. Remove the external grates
  3. Wash and rinse the external grates
  4. Clean and straighten the AC condenser fins gently with a “fin comb”
  5. Use 1 full can of aerosol condenser cleaning spray to coat the 4 surfaces of the condenser coils (be careful not to coat the rest of the AC unit)
  6. Lightly rinse the condenser with a garden hose from the inside out
  7. Allow time to try, then replace and secure all grates

You can also use a shop vac to suction clogged debris. Condenser coils should be cleaned at least once a year, or semi-annually for clients where AC systems are run year-round.

Clean the AC condensation drain

Cleaning the condensation drain ensures algae and mold are not growing inside the drain line, which can cause increased humidity, unpleasant odors, and indoor water damage.

To clean your condensation drain, HomeKeep recommends the following steps:

  1. Turn off power to the furnace
  2. Locate the condensate drain line
  3. Identify the drain line access point
  4. Remove the cover
  5. Flush the drain with distilled vinegar
  6. Let the solution sit for 30 minutes

Once the unit has had time to dry, replace the cover and turn the furnace power back on.

Air conditioner performance tips

Here are a few simple tips to keep your air conditioner working at maximum efficiency.

  • Angle your dryer vent away from your external AC unit: This is an easy way to avoid dryer lint from getting into the vents of your air conditioner.
  • Check the connections leading into the house: The pressure line running from your AC unit to your house has a joint sealed with silicone or similar caulking. Make sure the seal is intact. There is also typically foam similar to a pool noodle that covers the large, lower pressure line, which carries evaporated refrigerant from the house. Make sure that insulation is properly positioned to avoid condensation or openings for critters like mice to squeeze through.
  • Adjust your thermostat to a higher temperature when you’re gone: The less hard your air conditioner has to work every day, the longer its lifespan will be and the cheaper your energy bill.
  • Schedule a professional AC tune-up: Regular inspections of your air conditioner can help prevent costly repairs and replacements. On average, a typical AC service or tune-up costs around $300 per visit. HomeKeep AC tune-ups are included with all other services in our maintenance bundles that start at just $399 per year.

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