May 2018 EnergyWiseSM Tip: Cooling System Tune-Up
When is the worst time for your air conditioning system to fail? While there is no statistical evidence supporting my opinion, I would say 5:01 p.m. on a Friday, when outdoor temperatures are soaring greater than 95 degrees and clear skies are forecasted all weekend long. At that time, you are faced with a choice: Do you call a heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) contractor and pay overtime and additional charges to be cool, or do you suffer through the never-ending weekend to get next week’s standard rates after being placed on a waiting list for the next available technician?
I have another idea. How about minimizing chances you will ever be in this position? Has your air conditioning system had a cooling system tune-up in the last three years? Maybe you’re wondering what a cooling system tune-up even is!
If it has been of few years, now is the time to have your HVAC contractor inspect, service and clean it. Typically, tune-ups on cooling systems that have been neglected can provide 5 to 15 percent energy savings or more. Not to mention your unit can better perform from a comfort and equipment longevity standpoint. At a minimum, a tune-up should include the following:
Clean Condenser Coil – Outdoor condenser coils can become very dirty if outdoor environment is dusty or if there is foliage nearby. You can easily see the condenser coil and notice if dirt is collecting on its fins. These coils are also easily bent and can block airflow through the coil. An HVAC technician will use a tool called a "fin comb" to align fins into nearly original condition. The technician also has access to commercial-grade cleaning products to best remove dirt and other contaminants.
Check Refrigerant Charge – Performance and efficiency of your air conditioner is greatest when the refrigerant charge exactly matches the manufacturer's specification. In the event your system is low, the HVAC technician will add just the right amount to optimize performance.
Clean Indoor Coil – Your indoor coil is inside your furnace or ductwork. Even though you may be faithful about changing out filters, dust, allergens and airborne particles can accumulate on its fins and dramatically reduce efficiency. Even worse, dirty coils can become a source for mold and other bacteria to thrive. If you think your cooling system runs longer than it used to, has reduced capacity or the evaporator coil is freezing up, it needs to be cleaned.
Check Belt / Lube Motor – Over time, belts crack and signal their impending failure. Some fan motors require occasional oiling to lubricate moving parts and reduce premature motor failure.
Blow Out Drain Line – Condensate drain lines are a continuous source of moisture during the cooling season. If water does not flow through the drain line properly, mold, mildew and fungus can develop and create a situation detrimental to your health. In addition, if mold, algae growth or other debris obstruct or block the condensate drain line, the condensate pan can become filled with water and eventually overflow.
Perform Visual Inspection of System – To the HVAC technician’s trained eye, problems with your system you may consider as normal can be readily recognized and rectified.
Discuss Proper Operation – The HVAC technician can clarify whether that "sound" you might hear is normal. They can discuss proper control sequences to assure heating and cooling systems do not operate simultaneously, and also how to optimize operation for efficiency and comfort.
Discuss/Review Proper Temperature Set-Back – Not sure how to program your thermostat to automatically adjust your setting while you are away? The HVAC technician knows how!
Filter Service Schedule – In addition to discussing the quality and effectiveness of various filters, the technician can help identify how often you should be changing your filter. Some homes need to do this monthly, while others may get by with the same filter for six months or longer. According to the Department of Energy, replacing a dirty, clogged filter with a clean one can lower your air conditioner's energy consumption by 5 to 15 percent.
Finally, check with your local electric utility to see if you are eligible for an EnergyWise
SM Cooling System Tune-Up incentive of $30. They also have additional ideas on other energy-saving improvements that can help you beat the red-hot summer heat while saving some cool green!