Air conditioner maintenance keeps your cooling equipment running the way it should throughout California’s long, hot summer months. Some of it can be done on your own, while other maintenance tasks are complex enough to require professional help. But how do you know the difference, when should you perform or schedule maintenance on your AC, and what kind of costs should you expect?
Don’t worry—the Cencal Mechanical Heating & Air team has spent years working on air conditioners throughout the Central Valley, so we know all about the best way to maintain California cooling systems and we’re here to help. Read ahead to learn everything you’ll need to start planning and performing the tasks that keep your AC running right when the weather really heats up.
DIY Air Conditioner Maintenance: Tasks You Can Do On Your Own
The following AC maintenance tasks are easy enough that most homeowners should be able to tackle them without too much trouble. If you feel challenged by any of these, though, don’t worry—you can always call us for help and have a professional HVAC tech make sure they get done right.
- Cleaning or replacing your air filter: A clean filter allows for better airflow and efficiency, reducing energy costs. Visually check the filter to ensure it’s clean and not clogged. Then replace disposable filters or clean reusable filters with water and mild detergent if necessary.
- Cleaning your outdoor unit: Visually inspect the unit for damage or wear, and remove any debris, leaves, and dirt from the outdoor unit’s surface. Keep plants and bushes at least 2 feet away from the unit to ensure proper airflow.
- Checking your evaporator coils: Before starting your system for the first time this season, access the evaporator coils by opening the utility panel in the indoor unit. Then use a soft brush to remove dust and dirt. For heavily soiled coils, call us for professional help—you don’t want to damage the coils and pay big bucks to replace them.
- Inspecting your ductwork and temporarily patching small leaks: Visually check along your ducts for leaks, holes, or disconnections. If you find small ones, you can use duct mastic or foil-backed tape to patch them—but this is only a temporary fix. You’ll need to call us for help so that we can permanently solve the problem and restore the long-term integrity of your ducts.
- Testing your thermostat’s accuracy: Place a reliable thermometer near the thermostat and compare the readings to make sure your thermostat is working accurately. If there’s a significant difference, recalibrate the thermostat or consider replacing it with a smart thermostat that will automatically adjust itself to accommodate your comfort preferences and use energy efficiently.
Professional Air Conditioner Maintenance: When to Call for Help
There’s a limit to the amount of AC maintenance you can do on your own. Air conditioners are complicated machines with numerous delicate components that can be damaged by inexperienced hands, so it’s best to call our professionals for help with the following tasks:
- Comprehensive inspections and tune-ups: We’ll visit your home and run a complete multi-point inspection on your air conditioner—including its compressor, evaporator and condenser coils, refrigerant lines, blower motor, and more. This includes checking the amount of refrigerant in your system and topping it up if it’s low. We’ll also let you know if we find any urgent or impending mechanical problems that could turn into costly emergencies, and provide you with cost-effective options for fixing them before they reach that point. You should get your AC tuned up this way at least once a year for best results and optimal peace of mind.
- Component replacement or repair: If your AC has already suffered a broken compressor or other major component, do not attempt to replace it on your own. Not only is this a difficult job to do without special tools and knowledge, but it can also void your AC’s warranty. Trust our team to provide an efficient fix instead.
- Installing upgrades for air quality or energy efficiency: Adding an air purifier to your AC can make the air in your home feel considerably fresher, while a humidifier can help prevent dry skin and certain respiratory problems. To make sure these upgrades are installed properly, you’ll want an experienced HVAC technician to put them in.
Extra Tips for Maximizing Your AC Efficiency
- Using proper thermostat settings: Set your thermostat to a comfortable temperature that isn’t too low, as each degree can save energy and reduce costs. Consider using a programmable smart thermostat to adjust temperatures automatically when you’re away or asleep—this can reduce energy waste and save you up to 10-20% on your heating and cooling costs.
- Utilizing fans and natural ventilation: Use ceiling or portable fans to help circulate cool air and create a wind-chill effect, making your home feel cooler without lowering the thermostat. Open windows in the evening to let in cool air and close them during the day to keep heat out.
- Insulating your home: Proper insulation helps keep your home cool in summer by reducing heat transfer between the indoors and outdoors. Insulate your attic, walls, and floors to maintain comfortable temperatures and lower your energy bills.
- Installing energy-efficient windows and doors: Energy-efficient windows and doors minimize heat gain and loss, making it easier for your AC to maintain a comfortable temperature. Look for double-pane windows with low-E glass and well-sealed doors to improve your home’s energy efficiency.
Stay Cool in Cali with Proper AC Maintenance
Knowing the difference between the AC maintenance tasks you can take care of and the ones you can’t gives you the power to keep your cooling system healthy between professional visits and make sure you’re scheduling service when you really need it. To have questions about your specific cooling equipment answered by professionals or book a service call, contact Cencal Mechanical Heating & Air—our team will be happy to help.
Staying cool in the spring and summer is a challenge for many Central Valley residents, since running the air conditioner constantly can quickly become expensive. What many people don’t know is that supplementing your AC with a heat pump can actually bring your cooling costs down significantly, making it much more cost-effective to stay comfortable throughout the hottest months of the year.
Modern heat pumps use less energy than central air conditioners, but can still reduce your indoor temperature significantly—letting you save the AC for those hot days when you really need it (and save money in the long run). Learn more below from our experienced HVAC technicians about how you can use a heat pump to make your home more comfortable and energy-efficient at the same time.
How Does a Heat Pump Work?
Like central air conditioners, heat pumps use refrigerant to move heat from one area to another. Unlike air conditioners, however, heat pumps can also reverse this process to move heat from the outside into your home and raise the temperature, which means they provide both heating and cooling capabilities.
When your heat pump is in cooling mode, it goes through the following steps:
- Refrigerant enters the compressor as a low-pressure gas
- The compressor squeezes the refrigerant to raise its pressure and increase its temperature
- The refrigerant enters the condenser, where it releases its heat to the outdoors and becomes a high-pressure liquid
- The liquid refrigerant moves to the expansion valve where its pressure is released—causing its temperature to drop even further
- The refrigerant reaches the evaporator where it absorbs heat from inside the home and vaporizes into a low-pressure gas
- As a low-pressure gas, the refrigerant enters the compressor and begins the cycle again
Why Heat Pumps Use Less Energy than Air Conditioners
The steps described above are the same basic tasks that your central air conditioner performs—but heat pumps use less energy. Here’s why:
- Using a heat pump to provide heating and cooling with the same system uses much less energy than switching back and forth between separate heating and cooling equipment. This is because most of the energy furnaces and air conditioners use is spent while they’re starting up.
- Heat pumps are often designed with variable-speed compressors, allowing them to operate at lower speeds than air conditioners. This means they can more accurately match their output to your home’s cooling needs and reduce energy waste.
- Our heat pumps also come with WiFi-enabled smart thermostats, which can further enhance energy efficiency by automatically adjusting your equipment to maintain optimal comfort levels in your home.
The Benefits of Heat Pumps for Homeowners
The convenience and energy efficiency heat pumps offer results in numerous benefits for homeowners. Here are a few of the clearest:
Reduce Your Carbon Footprint
High-efficiency heat pumps use up to 60% less energy than conventional central HVAC systems, according to the California Energy Commission. This translates into a reduction of over 5,500 lbs in greenhouse gas emissions every year.
Lower Your Monthly Utility Bills
Using less energy also means paying less each month to cool your home. Based on the numbers above, an average California homeowner could save $1000 on cooling annually with a heat pump—or ~$83 per month. Bear in mind that savings for individual households will vary depending on specific usage habits.
Qualify for Rebates & Incentives
Heat pumps qualify for several rebates and incentive programs that can offset their installation and maintenance costs. For example, you can get a 30% federal tax credit up to $2000 for new heat pump installations that meet the requirements of the Consortium for Energy Efficiency (CEE).
Heat Pump Best Practices
High-efficiency heat pumps provide comparable cooling power to most central air conditioning systems while offering better energy efficiency, so replacing your AC with a new heat pump can be a smart move. Adding a heat pump and keeping your air conditioner is also an option—using the heat pump to supplement your AC on the hottest days of the year is a much more efficient way to cool off than simply pushing your air conditioner to its limits.
Here are some other tips for making the best possible use of your heat pump:
Usage & Maintenance Tips
- Combine your heat pump with a WiFi-enabled smart thermostat to ensure its output is always consistent with your cooling needs (our heat pumps come with these by default).
- Clean or replace your heat pump’s air filter on a monthly basis.
- Keep your doors and windows closed when running your heat pump to prevent hot air from entering.
- Use curtains to stop direct sunlight from entering your home through windows and warming the interior.
- Have your heat pump professionally serviced twice a year (we recommend once in the spring and once in the fall). Our team can diagnose any problems with your heat pump and present you with solutions to ensure its energy efficiency throughout the year’s warmest months.
Using a Heat Pump for Cost-Effective Cooling
While heat pumps aren’t normally effective replacements for central air conditioners in California, they make an excellent way to reduce the amount of energy it takes to cool your home on all but the hottest days of the year. The savings a heat pump provides can easily pay off their installation costs in just a few years, providing you and your family with more income each month.
Contact Cencal Mechanical Heating & Air to learn more about the benefits of installing a heat pump in your home. We’ll be happy to recommend equipment based on your home’s specific cooling needs and provide you with a quote to help you make an informed decision about your comfort.