Thursday, March 12th, 2020

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How to & How Not to Maintain your AC

First thing is to make sure you have an AC system. If the condenser (the outside unit) is just buzzing, you are going to need a service call. If the fan is running and hot air (in Cool Mode) is coming out of the top, but it still is not cooling correctly, check for bushes too close to the unit. We recommend that all vegetation (shrubs, bushes, etc.) be trimmed at least two feet away from the the condenser. If not the system cannot draw in enough air to cool the fins.

OK, the system is running, but unable to keep the house cool. Start with checking the filter. Most manufacturers recommend a MERV 8 filter. The cheap fiberglass filters that you can see through are pretty much worthless and will cost you much more in the long run.

MERV 2 “Renter’s Filter”

The super filters (allergen, mold, virus rated) are also expensive. They plug up quickly and cause the AC to run much more than it would if it had proper air flow. Often they are plugged up within a week and the system can hardly circulate air to cool the house.

Finally, filters should be changed monthly. I know is says “Up to 90 days” but that is not for here in Florida. We can grow stuff in our air. Every thirty days (once a month at about the same date) you should change your filter.

Way past due for a change

Ok, we’ve checked and changed the filter, but they system is still not cooling. Time to dig deeper. The evaporator coil (that radiator in the air handler) may be dirty. Some systems you can check this yourself if you have a lower wall mounted filter under the air handler. Most systems will required a professional to inspect the coils. If you’ve not been changing your filters often enough or you’ve been using the wrong filters, you may need a service call.

Dirty & Plugged Evaporator Coil

Finally, check that you are not trying to cool the attic or crawlspace. Some attics can be checked easily. Others require someone with the skills of a contortionist to get through. Others you can barely get your head in the hatch. You may have to call a professional. If you see broken ducts or missing insulation on the ducts, you are losing expensive cool air to the attic. If the ducts are very old, you may need to have your ducts replaced.

Old deteriorated duct.
Duct needs to be repaired and re-sealed.

Finally, if you’ve made it this far, I’ve done a video of even more AC failures:

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