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How To Restore Your Air Conditioner's Efficiency

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Every summer you expect your air conditioning unit to provide cool, comfortable air to your home. After years of use, your air conditioner has become less efficient at lowering the temperature throughout your home—which leaves you hot and sweating during midday heat waves. Luckily, you can make your air conditioner work like new by performing these three maintenance tasks:

Replace or Clean Your Air Filter

Your air filter traps airborne debris that's pulled into your air conditioning unit by the fan. Once enough debris becomes trapped in your filter, the filter will start to restrict the airflow into your unit. Without sufficient airflow, your air conditioner will be unable to quickly and efficiently cool your home. Additionally, your unit's evaporator coil—the component that cools air—can freeze when there isn't enough air blowing through it.

Replacing your unit's air filter is a simple task that you can perform in a couple minutes. To begin, check your owner's manual to determine what type of replacement filter you need to purchase.

If you have a wall-mounted or window air conditioner, your air filter is located directly behind the front face of your unit. Always shut off your unit before opening it. For most models, you'll need to remove multiple screws around the front of the housing and carefully pull the face outwards while making sure not to break any plastic tabs that secure the face to the unit.

If your unit's front face doesn't separate from your unit after removing the exterior screws, then stop and consult your owner's manual—you may need to remove another component first to avoid damaging your air conditioner.

With the front face removed from your window or wall-mounted unit, remove your dirty filter, clean any remaining debris, and set your new filter inside your unit.

If your air conditioning unit is part of an HVAC system, then your air filter is located next to your furnace's blower motor. With your HVAC system shut off, open the blower motor housing and pull your dirty filter out from between the return air duct and the blower. Use a damp rag to clean up any loose debris. Once the area around the return duct is clean, slide in your new filter and test your HVAC system to ensure that you installed your filter correctly before closing your blower housing.

Some air conditioners have washable air filters. If your owner's manual states that you have a washable filter, use your garden hose to rinse off any debris from your filter. However, if you notice any holes or tears in the filter screen, you'll need to replace it.

Clean Your Blower Motor

Even with timely air filter replacement, your air conditioner's blower motor can still become covered in dust and other types of airborne debris. This is problematic because debris will cause your blower motor to overheat and fail. Without a functional blower motor, your air conditioner will not provide any cooling to your home.

If you have an HVAC system, shut off your air conditioner or furnace and open your blower motor housing. Remove the large, metal drum (called a squirrel cage) from the housing by loosening the screws that secure the drum to your blower housing. Take your squirrel cage outside and wash off any debris with your hose.

Before you can remove your blower motor, you may need to disconnect the wiring connecting your blower motor to your furnace. To do this, you'll need to shut off your furnace's electrical supply and wear insulated gloves.

Twist off or pull the wire connectors and caps that link your blower motor's wires to your furnace. As you pull each connector or cap off, write down which wires it connected to avoid confusion when you reinstall your motor. For additional identification, wrap strips of tape with numbers or colors around each pair of connected wires. If you are confused about which wires need to be removed to disconnect your blower motor, then stop and hire a professional HVAC technician to finish the job, like Redlands Plumbing Heating & Air Conditioning.

Use an air compressor or a gas duster to clean your blower motor once you've removed it from your blower housing. To avoid dirtying your home, it's best to do this while outside. Don't use a damp rag to clean debris from your motor—if the internal electronics of your motor get wet, they'll sustain permanent damage.

Check The Refrigerant Levels

A poorly-maintained air conditioner is likely to develop refrigerant leaks. Refrigerant can leak from a compressor with damaged gaskets, cracked evaporator coil, or from several other components of your unit.

If your air conditioner only blows room temperature air, then it's likely that it does not have a sufficient amount of refrigerant. In such a case, you'll need to have a professional HVAC technician check and refill your unit's refrigerant. Refrigerant handling certification is necessary to check and refill your unit's refrigerant, so you must never attempt to check or refill your unit's refrigerant by yourself.

Stop by your local home improvement store to purchase the materials you'll need to replace your air filter and clean your blower motor. If your unit still doesn't operate as efficiently as it did when you first purchased it after performing these repairs, then hire your HVAC technician to inspect your unit and check it's refrigerant levels. By doing so, you can make sure that your unit will keep your home cool and comfortable throughout the summer heat waves.