Air Conditioning Tips from your Phx Home Inspector

It’s getting hot and last night my wife turned on the AC for the first time this year.

Do you ever dread that thought? Do you wonder if the unit will actually work the next time you flip the switch?

Here are some helpful tips to help your air conditioning unit last as long as it should.

  • Change the filter every month. I don’t care if you use a two inch pleated or a one inch fiber filter, they both have the same amount of  air and particulates trying to pass through them. an easy time is every time you pay the electric bill, go change the filter.
  • Clean the return air grill and filter box. Most people have vacuums with all kinds of fancy attachments they never use. Put one of those attachments on the vacuum and clean the grill in front of the air filter, then open the grill, remove the filter and clean the area behind it. (Now that the attachment is already on the vacuum, clean the ceiling fan blades too, you can’t believe the amount of dust on the top of some of the blades)
  • Clean the area around the outside air conditioning unit. These units pull air through the sides and blow it out the top. Anything that restricts the air from flowing in the sides (or out the top) will make the unit work harder and reduce the efficiency. I recently was in a subdivision where the builder located the laundry dryer vent right next to the outside AC units, The units had lint restricting air flow on one side.
  • Check the units clearances. Anything that restricts the airflow around the AC unit will effect its performance, make sure the clearance around the unit is at least what the manufacture recommends. If you get the model number off of the unit you can typically find the installation manual on line.
  • Check to see what is above the unit. Anything less than five feet directly above the unit  can effect how the unit functions, this includes roofs, trees, structures etc.
  • What drains on the unit.  This is one of the most controversial topics about air conditioning in Arizona. The outside unit is designed to be outside (duh) it can get rained on too, however most all manufactures put in the installation instructions not to place the unit under roof that will direct water on to or in to the unit. This make a lot of sense when you think about it. We have a balanced fan at the top of the unit blowing air up, in monsoon season we have a heavy rain and you have a huge section of roof diverting the water on to the spinning electric fan. I see units installed like this all the time and if they are over 5 years old they typically have already had the fan motor replaced, however homes where the units do not have the roof water draining on them don’t seem to need to have the fans replaced. You can decide if this is an issue you wish to address, it is not a difficult thing to correct, simply place a gutter at the roof that directs water away from the unit (and the foundation)
  • Have the unit serviced on a regular basis, if your refrigerant is running low you may not know it but running the unit that way for a long time can reduce it’s life so have it serviced. It is typically cheaper to do this before it gets too hot outside.
  • Check your duct work. Most of the homes in the phoenix area have flexible round duct work. Think of this duct has a hose that has air flowing through it. If the hose is kinked, pinched, restricted or not supported it will effect the amount of air that flows through it. I frequently see duct work improperly installed. Have a licensed contractor tune it up if needed. If you have not changed your filters on a regular basis you may want to have the ducts cleaned.

Remember when you purchase the home to have a home inspector look at the air conditioning, not just the unit but the ducts and registrars as well and verify that there is air flow in every room. For additional information about air conditioning .

For more information about Arizona home inspections or our other services please visit the Phoenix Home Inspection Web site

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Comments

  1. Great article for homeowners. Another way to save money is to buy a programmable thermostat, which turns the AC down when you are not around. For more tips on how to save money on your air conditioning, check out our recent blog post and feel free to borrow any tips for your blog! http://ableair1.sites.captico.com/2010/06/22/5-easy-ways-to-lower-your-air-conditioning-bills/

  2. One thing most people do not think about when trying to save money and increase the life of their air conditioner is the effect their other appliances have on it. When people leave for vacation, they generally turn their AC down, or completely off. They forget about other appliances like their water heater, refrigerator, computers, etc. that not only still use energy while you are not home, but can effect the temperature of the home, making the air conditioning unit work harder than it needs to. Here are a few more tips for saving on your energy bill while you are on vacation. http://northvalleyhvac.com/?p=85

  3. Our heating and cooling systems give us the comfort that we need at home or even in our place of work. If they do not work properly, we cannot function normally because we are not at ease and we become irritable. Aside from that, if our air conditioning systems do not work properly – chance are our electricity bills will go up. This is why it is important to know the basic information regarding your HVAC appliances to keep them working in top condition.

  4. Repairs can be prevented if we just maintain our electrical appliances. In this way, we can even cut down from our electricity bills. Thank you for you helpful tips. We need heating and cooling not just for our homes but in our place of work as well. When we feel comfortable, we become more productive and having reliable HVAC systems can truly help us.

  5. Air conditioners are great ways to keep cool during the warmer seasons. This is especially true for summer. Thank you for sharing these tips! They are really simple ways to keep your AC from failing when you need it most.

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