So you find yourself sitting in your Waukesha area home on the first exceptionally hot day of the summer. You may decide this seems like the perfect moment to turn your air conditioner on. Reset the thermostat to “cool” expecting to hear your system turn on and let the cold air begin, and nothing happens! It’s time to call a Waukesha air conditioning expert!

An air conditioner that sits idle for months tends to collect leaves and other debris and can develop a leak that may prevent it from working properly. Pre-season maintenance is a must to ensure your air conditioner is working properly.

Neglect to do this and you may spend the first few days of summer waiting on a now very busy HVAC contractor. The time to get your air conditioning system properly serviced is in the spring …… or now!

Below are a few things you can do on your own to keep your HVAC system running and your home cool but it’s still best to get an AC check done by a professional cooling contractor like New Berlin Heating & Air Conditioning.

Back to Basics:

There are two main components of a central air conditioning system. The first component is the condenser, typically located outside. Second is the evaporator, mounted in the air handler or furnace. These two work together to remove the heat from indoor air through a refrigeration process. Followed by the air handler or furnace fan blowing the now dehumidified and cooled air throughout the ductwork and into the rest of the home.

Any repairs that need to be made to the sealed refrigeration system are not a DIY project for the weekend! You need to call the experts at New Berlin Heating & Air Conditioning for this kind of repair project.

While you need a professional for that kind of repair, there are other cleaning and maintenance duties you can perform yourself to ensure that your system will be running efficiently for a long, long time.

Here are some tasks you can perform.

Safety Always Comes First:

Before beginning any work on an air conditioning system, you must always turn off the power to the condenser at the service panel. Typically a condenser also has a 240-volt weatherproof disconnect box, located near the unit.  Inside you will find fuses, a lever, or circuit breaker to shut the condenser off.

Make sure this gets turned off because you can never be too safe. Although you have turned off the power, you should avoid any contact with electrical components, for they may carry a residual charge that could hurt you.

Air handlers often have their own separate switch or circuit breaker in the main control panel.  Ensure this is turned off as well before you begin any work on the unit.

Clean or Replace your Filters:

This is the simplest, yet often the most important step in keeping your air conditioner in good shape. You need to clean or replace your furnace/air handler filters regularly or at least as soon as they look to be clogged with dust and other debris.

Neglecting to do this will result in undesired repercussions: restricted air flow, reduced efficiency, increased energy usage and recirculating dusty air back into the home.

Cleaning the Condenser Coils:

The condenser is usually located outside, it is the big metal box with a fan in it, can’t miss it!  Usually, it is protected through the winter months by a cover or a tarp to prevent debris buildup inside of the unit.

If this is not done, it is very likely to contain leaves, other yard debris, and dirt that must to be cleaned out. The large fan in the center moves air across the radiator-style condenser coils. If there is a buildup of debris inside the unit, more than likely some of the coils will be visibly clogged.

If anything is obstructing the airflow, the efficiency of the unit will be drastically reduced, meaning these coils need to be cleaned at the beginning of every cooling season. Cleaning these involves removing the side and top panel or protective grilles from the unit.  To do this you must use a screwdriver or another nut driver, depending on the type of fasteners that have been used on the panels. Be extra careful and double check that all power to the unit has been shut off before attempting to open the unit. The process is simple enough, just unscrew the panels and pull them away, then lift the top cover.  Some of these parts may be heavy but will vary depending on the size of the unit and the fan inside.

Do not tug on any wires connected to the unit under any circumstance!

You may use a refrigerator coil brush or a soft brush on the end of a vacuum to gently clean the coils from the outside. Be careful that you do not bend the very delicate fins or damage the coils in any way. If you happen to bend any of the fins, you can straighten them out with a “fin comb”, which is made especially for this purpose.

Once you are done on the outside, vacuum the coils from the inside. Any stubborn or hard to remove debris can be sprayed by a commercial coil cleaner from the inside to assist in removing the debris. Be careful not to spray the fan or any electrical components. Sometimes using a strongly focused stream of water from a hose is necessary to blast away any dirt and debris from inside the unit. Once again you must be very careful as to not bend any of the fins, flood the area, spray water on the fan or any of the electrical components. You should cover these parts with something like a plastic garbage bag.

Remember that when doing this you may inadvertently cause mud to block some of the coils and the areas in between the fins – you must be thorough when doing this.

Scoop leaves and other debris from the base of the unit and if it has a drain, ensure that it is clear and draining. You may use a vacuum and a rag to clean the blades of the fan. Continue by tightening any mounting bolts you notice coming loose. If the fan has an oil port, put a few drops of a light weight oil in, or spray WD-40 in the ports for extra lubrication.

Clean up any extra water with a mop and then reassemble the condenser unit.

Look for any weeds or vines when reassembling that may interfere with airflow, and remove them.

Checking Coolant Lines:

The refrigerant tubes or pipes are typically covered with foam insulation to prevent energy loss from the lines. Take a look at the lines and if you notice any areas where the insulation is missing or damaged, replace it. Install foam insulation sleeves or wrap the line in a spiral fashion with foam insulation tape.

Testing the Unit

After cleaning, give the unit adequate time to dry thoroughly and follow this process to turning your unit back on and testing it. First, ensure that your thermostat is in the OFF position. Next, turn on the power at both the disconnect box and the main panel.

Lastly, you may now turn your thermostat to COOL. If your air conditioner fails to work properly, call New Berlin Heating & Air Conditioning immediately for assistance; otherwise, you should be good to go.

For more information, free equipment estimates, maintenance services or AC repair in Waukesha County, call us today. We look forward to helping keep you and your home comfortable all year long.