3 Ways to Care for Your Air Conditioner

Summer is here, and with that comes the heat! As residents of Southern Arizona, we know that having a properly-functioning air conditioner is the difference between surviving the summer and having a house that is uninhabitable. In that respect, we all share the same nightmare: not having cold air in the summer. Imagine, you’ve made it through a long day at work, picked up the kids, been to the grocery store, and have finally walked in through the door ready to settle in for the evening. Temperatures have reached over 110 and you’re looking forward to relaxing in your nice, cool home. So imagine the surprise in realizing that, when you walk in through the door and feel that its just as hot inside as it is outside, the air conditioner has broken down! In other parts of the country, this scenario would likely only result in some discomfort. However, in the desert where temperatures reach extreme levels this situation can be deadly. At these temperatures you are beyond risk of heat stroke and dehydration, and would likely have to be displaced from your home temporarily while you waited for a new air conditioner to be installed. Now in addition to the costs of a brand-new air conditioner, you’re facing costs of temporary living as well. So how exactly do we avoid a breakdown during the hottest months of the year? Here are the three best practices to consider when it comes to air conditioner care.

1.) Change the filter on your air conditioner monthly

While it may be an easy thing to forget, making sure that the filter on your air conditioner is clean will ensure that the parts within the unit remain functioning properly. As air flows into the unit, dust and debris from the outside are also brought in. This can build up over time and wreak all kinds of havoc on your air conditioner! The filter is put in place in order to protect the internal parts of the air conditioner from such build-up. When a filter gets dirty, it no longer works the way it should, and the dust and debris can flow through. In order to ensure that the unit functions properly and at full capacity, keeping the internal parts of your air conditioner clean is necessary. Dust buildup not only can lead to malfunctioning, but can also cause the air conditioner to lose energy efficiency. Over time, dust can affect the functioning of the parts within the unit, causing it to have to work harder and thus use more energy. The build-up can also lead to corrosion and degradation of the parts, which can lead to a lower life expectancy and breakdown later on down the road. Even if the life expectancy on your air conditioner is 10 years, that doesn’t mean it can survive 10 years without proper upkeep. As with everything, air conditioners require maintenance and the costs associated with that are far lower than major part replacements or having to buy a new unit completely. By opting for the minimal cost of changing the filters, you are saving your wallet from high energy bills, more costly repairs, or a complete unit replacement.

2.) Have an annual inspection conducted by a professional before the hot weather hits

In order to avoid a breakdown during the summer, taking care of your air conditioner and being sure that all the parts are functioning properly before the extreme temperatures hit is crucial. That way, you are ensuring that you will avoid any air conditioning crisis during the worst possible time of year. The time in which you have your annual inspection is dependent on the weather in your region, but it is wise to consider an inspection around 3 months before temperatures begin to rise. This allows you a grace period to deal with scheduling any repairs or unit replacements, as well as to prepare for any resulting expenses. For Southern Arizona in particular – sometime during January, February, or March is an ideal time for an inspection. This inspection should involve a technician checking to make sure that all parts are functioning properly, that there are no leaks, and that all parts are clean and corrosion free. As these months are usually cooler and outside of the window of extreme temperatures, you will be allowing yourself time to prepare for any repairs, or a total unit replacement before the situation becomes urgent in hotter temperatures. You won’t have to worry about being without air conditioning for long, and will have far more flexibility in scheduling an appointment than you would during the summer months.

3. Replace your unit on time

Most air conditioners have a life expectancy of around 15 years, however that does not mean that the unit will last that long, nor does it mean it will perform like new for that long. Especially in the desert where an air conditioner sees a lot of use, it’s wise to get your unit replaced if it is over 10 years old. In fact, one of the most common causes for a unit breaking down is a Freon leak due to corrosion, usually around the 10-year mark. Think of an air conditioner like you would a car – the more miles you put on it the sooner the likelihood of you needing to get a new one. Air conditioners are no different, and if air conditioners were cars in Southern Arizona, those cars would see a lot of miles. Aside from age, here are some other signs that it may be time to replace your unit:

  1. Your unit frequently breaks down
  2. You are experiencing fluctuations in humidity
  3. You have high energy bills

These can be indicators that there is an issue with your air conditioner, and if you are experiencing any of these symptoms you should call a professional to take a look at your unit for a diagnosis. If you do need a new air conditioner, there are many reputable brands available. Remember to ask your technician to see which brands and units fit your needs, and understand that financing is often available if need be.

Unfortunately, we don’t get to choose when disaster strikes. We can only prepare for it the best we can and try to be aware of issues as they arise, so that they cause as little damage as possible. The tips listed above will help you do just that. By changing the filter on your air conditioner monthly, you’re ensuring that the parts within the unit stay as clean as possible so that they stay functioning properly. If something still breaks, you’ll know about it during your annual inspection in the spring time, when the temperatures are still cool and there is time to make repairs without having to worry about the heat. By staying on top of the time period in which the unit needs to be replaced completely, you are also helping to avoid any surprise breakdowns as best as possible.

While things can still go wrong even when you’re doing everything right, following these tips can at the very least lower the chances of that happening. Air conditioners are one of the more expensive appliances in a home, yet are also one of the most essential when it comes to keeping us safe from the extreme heat. Nobody likes dealing with repairs or possible replacements in the first place, and it’s like salt in a wound when it happens with such a big ticket item. In that sense, wouldn’t you much rather not be caught off guard when something goes wrong, and have time on your side? If your unit has yet to be inspected this year, be sure to beat the heat and call for an annual inspection today!