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.
Every year, thousands of wildfires burn across California, destroying millions of acres and creating thick smoke that drifts across the state. Peak forest fire season can start as early as June and last well into October, making the air potentially dangerous to breathe for nearly half the year—even when you’re at work or in your home.
By taking steps to improve your home’s indoor air quality, you can reduce the health risks associated with wildfire smoke, which include heart attacks, strokes, and asthma. Below, our team at Cencal Mechanical Heating & Air has compiled a list of recommendations for making the air you breathe in your home or business clearer during the smokiest portions of the year.
Sealing Your Building
Make sure your home is properly sealed to prevent outside air from entering. This includes:
- Closing all windows and doors
- Sealing gaps in window or door frames with weather stripping
- Placing wet towels at the bottoms of doors to prevent air from coming in underneath
- Monitoring Local Air Quality
You won’t want to keep wet towels under your doors all the time, but knowing when the air quality in your area is most impacted by wildfire smoke gives you an idea of when to take extra precautions. You can learn about your local air quality levels by:
- Checking local air quality reports on airnow.gov
- Monitoring local weather reports on TV or the radio
- Using an app like IQAir or Breezometer
Improving Your HVAC Filters
Your furnace filter is designed to catch contaminants, but standard filters usually aren’t built to capture small particles—making them insufficient to protect you from wildfire smoke. You can upgrade your filter by purchasing a filter with a MERV rating of at least 13.
MERV stands for Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value and is a measurement scale specifically created for air filters by the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air Conditioning Engineers. You can install MERV 13 filters in most HVAC systems without needing to upgrade your equipment.
Maintaining Your HVAC System
Since your air filters play a critical role in maintaining your indoor air quality, you’ll need to make sure your HVAC system runs properly throughout forest fire season. Here are some tips:
- Change your furnace filters regularly. Most filters with a MERV rating of 13 or higher should be changed every 30 to 90 days, but it’s best to change them monthly during fire season to be safe.
- Keep the area around your air conditioner’s outdoor unit free from dust and debris, which can quickly accumulate during wildfire season. Sweeping away dust and moving twigs, branches, or other objects at least two feet away helps prevent them from entering your ducts and ensures proper airflow.
- Schedule professional HVAC maintenance to make sure your equipment remains efficient and prevent breakdowns. It’s best to schedule an AC tune-up in the spring before wildfire season starts, and get a furnace tune-up at the end of wildfire season to make sure no damage has been done to your heating equipment before winter starts.
Buying a UV Air Purifier
UV air purifiers won’t catch particulate matter, but they do disrupt the DNA of potentially harmful microorganisms that can live in the air you breathe. The UV-C light these devices emit is harmless to humans, but effectively kills bacteria, mold, and viruses as they pass through your home’s ductwork.
Using a high-quality air filter with a high MERV rating is the best way to trap particulate matter from wildfire smoke and prevent it from entering your home’s air—but adding a UV air purifier to your HVAC system gives you the highest possible air quality at home.
The Health Benefits of Improving Your Indoor Air Quality
Taking the steps above to protect yourself from the harmful effects of wildfire smoke can:
- Reduce your risk of asthma and other respiratory problems
- Reduce your risk of cardiovascular problems like heart attacks and lung cancer
- Improve your sleep quality
- Enhance your overall quality of life by providing peace of mind
For specific suggestions on how to improve the air quality at your home or business during California’s forest fire season, contact Cencal Mechanical Heating & Air. Our experienced professionals will take your home’s features into consideration and provide an effective solution for helping you breathe easier.