Small monthly tasks throughout the cooling season and again at the end of the cooling season can prevent unnecessary damage when it comes to your AC. Most of these tasks are simple enough to do yourself, but you can also schedule a maintenance visit if you need more help.
1. Clean the Condensate System
Condensation builds up in an AC system, which is drained via a series of drain lines, a pump, and a drain pan. If a clog develops anywhere in this system, the moisture can become trapped to the point it overflows or damages other components in the AC. The main source of clogs is algae in the lines or pan drain, which can be cleaned out with a bleach solution. You may also need to run the solution through the pump if it is clogged.
2. Remove Exterior Debris
Air circulation around the exterior AC unit is vital for proper operation. Keep grass and plants trimmed back so that nothing impedes airflow. If debris, such as dead leaves, has blown up against the unit, then carefully rake or sweep it away. You can also rinse the exterior unit with water to remove any dust or stubborn debris that can't be easily swept away.
3. Test the Thermostat
Your unit can only cool properly if the thermostat is functioning correctly. The simplest way to test the thermostat is to use a separate thermometer that is placed near the thermostat. Set the thermostat a couple of degrees lower than the current temperature in the room so that the AC cycles on. Once the unit completes the cycle, use the second thermometer to verify that it cooled correctly. If there are discrepancies, an HVAC tech may need to recalibrate or replace the old thermostat.
4. Listen to a Full Cycle
Odd noises can indicate that something is going wrong with the AC unit. Stand near the outdoor unit for a full cooling cycle. Generally, you should hear a small click as the unit powers on and off and dull whirring of the fan blades as it runs. If there are loud thumps, grinding noises, or squeals, immediate service is needed as something is wrong with the unit. Often the issue is something simple, like the need for some lubrication or a belt replacement, but ignoring the problem can lead to a more severe malfunction.
Contact an AC service if you need more help or notice any issues when performing these maintenance tasks.