Spring and Summer are almost here and our A/C Services are here to help. It means now is the time to make sure your A/C system is up to the job of keeping you and your family cool.
Soon, 90-plus degree weather will be here, reminding us how hot and humid Central and South Florida can be. Getting a jump on making sure your household cooling system is in good condition can help save you cash and the hassle of finding a good contractor when the height of the busy summer season is here, experts say.
The first thing to keep in mind is that you can do a lot to keep your air conditioner healthy, says the president of the Florida chapter of the Air Conditioning Contractors of America, an industry trade group of licensed professionals.
“You don’t want to wait until your [cooling and heating] unit breaks down. We recommend twice a year inspections. Once just before the summer, and again just before the winter,” said the Florida Chapter president.
“Air-conditioning units are a lot like cars,” London likes to tell his customers. “People love driving their cars, but they usually don’t remember to service the car until there is a problem.”
The good news is regular maintenance can extend the life of your system. Here are some things to keep in mind:
Your system will not work without the thermostat, which often works on alkaline batteries. It’s a good idea to change the batteries once a year. To help you remember, change the thermostat batteries each time you replace smoke alarm batteries.
Know your condensing unit from your air handler. The former is the giant boxlike unit outside the home with a giant fan inside. To keep it running properly, keep it free from leaves, grass clippings and other debris that can cause it to work harder and burn out sooner. The handler is located in the house and the best thing you can do is regularly check to make sure it works properly; remove the screws holding the panel in place and check to make sure the drain pan water is flowing freely.
You should also check the piping system that terminates outside your home used to get rid of excess water. The water should flow or drip without obstruction. When it clogs, it can lead to mold and mildew buildup inside your home, as well as leaks in ceilings, walls and flooring.
It’s important to change the air filter in your air conditioning unit regularly, about once a month. London recommends avoiding cheap fiberglass throwaway filters that can cost $1 or more. Go with either high-efficiency filters that cost $6 or more apiece, or an electrostatic filter that can cost $15 or more each. These filters cost more but protect your system’s coil, which is akin to a car radiator, and keeps it cleaner and running longer.
Look out for signs of major trouble. The first indication that your unit needs more than general maintenance is increased electricity bills. Your unit will use excess power when it is not running properly, like an out-of-tune car uses more fuel.
Other hints that you may need a professional are water leaks, strange noises coming from your unit or a drain pan that repeatedly overflows. London says it’s also a bad sign if you need to call out a technician more than once a year for repairs. This could mean your unit is ripe for replacement.
The last thing you want to do is rush a replacement job. Yes, it is uncomfortable to go without air conditioning for a few days, but it is more important to choose the right contractor and get the best price possible. Calling someone to make major repairs on a weekend or weeknight will inevitably cost more. Have patience and save your wallet.