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FAQ on Air Conditioning - Part I: Maintenance and Servicing

Being a top-rated air conditioning company in West Berlin, NJ, we service the AC units of hundreds of homeowners in our city and its neighboring cities. Because they are in the field all day long doing emergency air conditioning repair work, our technicians receive many questions from people interested in making their air conditioner work better for them. We decided to put together an FAQ answering many of the questions most often asked. We hope you will find this useful.


How often should I service my air conditioner?

Short answer:

We recommend servicing your air conditioner twice a year, preferably in the spring before the peak cooling season begins, and early in the fall before your furnace starts operating. Regular servicing ensures that the system operates efficiently, extends its lifespan, and can prevent costly repairs in the future.


Technical answer:

Servicing your air conditioner twice a year is best practice, ideally during the spring before the summer heat sets in, and at the beginning of the fall when your furnace will start kicking in.


From a technical perspective, regular servicing ensures that all components, such as the compressor, evaporator coils, and condenser coils, are functioning optimally. Over time, these components can accumulate dirt, which can reduce the system's efficiency by up to 15%.


During our years operating as an air conditioning company in West Berlin, we have seen units that hadn't been serviced for years; cleaning them up made a significant difference in performance.


In a particular case, our client reported a 20% reduction in their energy bills after a thorough service.


How often should I change or clean the AC filters?

Short answer:


You should check your AC filters monthly, especially during heavy use seasons (summer and winter). Depending on the type and usage, you ought to replace or clean your filters every 1-3 months. Clean filters improve air quality, enhance system efficiency, and reduce energy costs.


Technical answer:


AC filters ensure an efficient airflow and maintain your indoor air quality. Technically, a clogged filter can impede airflow, forcing the system to work harder, leading to increased wear and tear and higher energy bills.


We advise to inspect your filters monthly, especially during summer and winter. Depending on the type, usage, and indoor air quality, you would do well to replace or clean your air filters every 1-3 months.


In homes with pets for instance, filters tend to clog faster due to pet dander. All the hair accumulate in the pleats of the filter, making it increasingly difficult for the airflow in the returns to get sucked in.


Along the years, we have heard homeowners telling us that after they started to change their filter monthly, the air quality in their home improved so much they had less allergies and felt much better.


Changing your air filters will also enable your unit to work less hard to pull air out of your home, which means lower energy bills and less wear and tear on your system. It’s a small expense that generates good savings.


What are the benefits of regular AC maintenance?

Short answer:


Regular AC maintenance ensures optimal performance, reduces energy consumption, and extends the lifespan of your AC unit. It also helps detecting potential issues early, and prevents costly repairs and replacements. Regular maintenance helps with indoor air quality by keeping filters and coils clean.


Technical answer:


From a technical standpoint, regular AC maintenance is a must for several reasons. It ensures that the system operates at peak efficiency (what is called SEER), reduces energy consumption, and prolongs the lifespan of your AC unit.


Did you know that a well-maintained AC can serve your home efficiently for 15 years? By comparison, a neglected unit might need replacement 10 years after it was installed!


Regular maintenance enables air conditioning technicians to detect potential issues much earlier: wear and tear is inevitable, but it can be slowed down. Also, excessive wear and tear triggers cascading failures: failing parts increasing the wear and tear of other parts that fail in turn.


We can’t count the number of situations when doing a routine check we identified a refrigerant leak in its early stages. These leaks will cause compressors to fail, a very costly repair.


Additionally, maintenance ensures better indoor air quality by keeping filters, coils, and ducts clean, reducing the risk of mold and bacteria buildup.


How do I clean the coils in my AC unit?

Short answer:


This is typically a task for a professional AC technician, not a DIY task. But if you want to do it yourself, you would first turn off the unit. For the outdoor condenser coil, you would remove any debris and gently clean with a coil cleaner, following instructions on the product. Then rinse with a hose.


For the indoor evaporator coil, you would access it through the main unit panel, and use a no-rinse coil cleaner. Importantly, ensure good ventilation while using cleaning products and always refer to the product manufacturer's guidelines.


Technical answer:


The coils in an AC unit play a central role in the heat exchange process. Over time, both the indoor evaporator coil and the outdoor condenser coil can accumulate dirt and debris, reducing their efficiency.


We don’t think cleaning a coil unit yourself is advisable; it is a task better left to a pro. If you damage the condenser coil, you will wind up at best with a less efficient system, and at worst, with the need to replace the coil. And that is unlikely to be covered by your manufacturer’s warranty.


Now, if you absolutely want to do it yourself, you would start the cleaning by turning off the unit. For the outdoor condenser coil, you would remove any debris like leaves or twigs both inside and outside the condenser coil, and at the bottom of the AC unit.


Then, using a specialized coil cleaner, you would gently clean the coils, making sure you don’t bend the metal of the coil. Rinse it off with a hose.


Avoid pressure washers, they will push too much pressure on the metal.


Then access your indoor evaporator coil through the main unit panel. Use a no-rinse coil cleaner. Only apply this product with enough ventilation (like blowing a fan with open windows).


Dirty condenser coils prevent your AC from operating at optimum efficiency as the coat of dirt and debris over the coil decreases the efficiency of the heat transfer process.


Cleaning coils improves efficiency, and reduces energy bills. But this is a delicate operation that is better done by a pro.


How can I prevent mold growth in my AC?

Short answer:


To prevent mold growth, ensure proper drainage of the condensate pan, regularly clean or replace filters, and use a UV light system if recommended. Keeping humidity levels in your home between 30-50% and regularly inspecting ducts and vents for moisture or mold signs can also help.


Technical answer:


Mold growth in AC units is a common issue in rainy areas like NJ. Technically speaking, mold thrives in moist environments. The condensate pan is a risk area because it is always wet. AC professional air conditioning technicians we always inspect your condensate pan to clean it up and to ensure it drains water properly.


If airflow is not strong enough, you will wind up with moisture build-up in your ducts: that’s another reason to clean or replace your filters regularly.


Some modern AC systems come with UV light sub-systems that kill mold spores and bacteria. Installed in the returns, these systems are a good counter-measure for mold and allergies.


Some studies have shown that mold growth leads to respiratory issues. We highly recommend homeowners to get a pro to conduct regular inspections of ducts and vents for signs of moisture or mold.


Lastly, using dehumidifiers may help. Keep the humidity in your home at between 30-50%.


How often should I check the refrigerant levels?

Short answer:


Your AC service technician will check your refrigerant levels twice a year. Refrigerant levels must be kept within the manufacturer’s recommended range to allow your AC unit to regular your home temperature efficiently. Too much or too little refrigerant reduces system efficiency, increases energy costs, and will potentially damage your system.


Technical answer:


Refrigerant is the lifeblood of your AC system. It commands the heat exchange process that cools your home. Technically speaking, an AC system is a closed loop: it shouldn't lose refrigerant. It only loses refrigerant when there is a leak.

Your AC technician systematically checks your refrigerant levels during your regular AC service, and we recommend this to happen twice a year. Too much or too little refrigerant in a system reduces efficiency, increases energy costs, and will end up damaging the system.


For instance, a system with low refrigerant might ice up, leading to potential compressor damage. In our experience, the early detection of refrigerant leaks saved many homeowners from costly repairs, and ensured consistent cooling performance.

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