Why You Shouldn't Put off Your Annual AC Inspection

Central AC's Outdoor Unit On The Fritz? Solve The Problem With These Tips

If your central air conditioning system makes noises or doesn't operate properly in the summer or winter, check the outdoor unit for issues. Unlike the indoor air handler, the outdoor unit is exposed to animals, bad weather and other hazards. These things can cause many problems with the unit's fan, condenser coil and refrigerant lines, such as rust, corrosion and blockages. Before you spend the summer or winter in discomfort, follow the information and tip below to help solve your central AC's problems.

What Are Possible Causes for Your AC's Problems?

Although a dirty air filter and blocked air vents are two of the most common reasons air conditioners have problems, a dirty outdoor unit can also be a reason for poor heating and cooling. If you don't maintain the outdoor unit in between seasons, it can build up with dirt, leaves and bird excrement. These things can block the fins over the condenser coil or weigh down the fan. The condenser coil and fan keep the unit's compressor cool when it operates.

The condenser coil is a large apparatus that encases the inner core of the unit. Tiny, blade-like fins cover the entire surface of the coil and help the part absorb and release heat out of the outdoor unit when it's on, even during winter operation. If the coil and fins block up with debris, they no longer have the capacity to function. Your outdoor unit stalls, runs poorly or shuts down from the excessive heat inside it.

In addition to debris, the urine of cats, dogs and even raccoons living in your neighborhood can damage the unit if they spray or urinate on it to mark their territories. Urine contains a byproduct called urea, which is a combination of ammonia and other waste. When urea breaks down outside of the bodies of humans and most mammals, it releases ammonia.

If exposed to urine regularly, ammonia can eventually corrode the outdoor unit's copper refrigerant lines. The soil beneath the copper line can also soak up urine and affect it, especially if the line lies on the ground uninsulated. Protecting the refrigerant line and condenser coil from all of the problems above is essential.

How Do Your Solve Your AC's Problems?

Cleaning the outdoor unit with a mild cleanser and cool water help improves its functions in the summer and winter.

Here's what you do:

  1. Mix one gallon of cold water with 2 teaspoons of mild dish detergent.
  2. Turn off the unit at the outdoor power breaker by pulling the fuses out of the box. Put on vinyl gloves to protect your hands from urine and other contaminants.
  3. Sweep the concrete base around the unit to remove all signs of debris.
  4. Use a handheld vacuum cleaner to suction out the sides of the unit to clean the condenser coil. Use a low power setting to avoid damaging the internal parts of the unit.
  5. Dampen a rag with the water, then carefully wipe down the outside of the unit. If the fan appears soiled with dirt or covered with bird excrement, remove the cover with a screwdriver, then gently wipe it down. 
  6. Wipe down the copper refrigerant line with the rag. Be careful when you do so to avoid bending or fracturing the line.

If you don't see any type of insulation on the copper refrigerant line, it's a good idea that you insulate it yourself. You can use foam insulation purchased from a local hardware to protect the line. Wrap a thick piece of insulation around the entire line, then hold up the line with a small brick to keep it from touching the soil.

The insulation and tips above can help protect your outdoor unit in the summer and winter. If you need additional services for your central AC, contact a company like Jones Air Conditioning & Electric.

About Me

Why You Shouldn't Put off Your Annual AC Inspection

I almost always have my air conditioner inspected every spring before I start using it in the summer. However, last year I decided to skip the inspection. Everything had been OK for the last couple of years, so I assumed that it would be fine this year as well. Why not save a few dollars and skip the annual check up, just this once? Of course, this was the year that my air conditioner decided to break down. It ran for a few days, but it never really seemed to get cool enough to bring the indoor temperature down. Then it started making a loud noise, right before shutting off completely. By that time, the AC repair company was swamped like it always is when the weather is warm, and I had to wait days for an appointment. Next year, I will definitely be getting that yearly inspection first.

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