Although the average homeowner should leave some AC maintenance tasks to professionals, such as checking refrigerant levels and controls, there are many other things that can be done by the homeowner to improve the efficiency of an air conditioning system.
Most of these maintenance tasks involve making the home more energy efficient, rather than performing maintenance on the unit itself. However, if the AC unit doesn't need to work as hard to keep your home at a comfortable temperature, these actions actually help to reduce stress and extend the life of the AC unit.
Maintain a clean and cleared AC unit
It is important to keep dirt, leaves, and other debris away from the compressor. Clean both inside and outside the cabinet thoroughly, and trim any vegetation that may have grown near enough to cause an obstruction to air flow. Check the bottom pan for possible obstructions around the drains.
Keeping the hot and humid air outside
All window and door frames should be sealed with weatherstripping and caulk, as well as any openings caused by pipes and other protrusions. Walls should be insulated with at least the minimum thermal resistance ("R" rating) recommended by the manufacturer.
Use bathroom and kitchen exhaust fans only when necessary. They will pull hot and humid air into the home through any tiny breaches in the home's exterior to compensate for the air that is blown outside. Nature abhors a vacuum, so provide as little of a vacuum as possible.
Check to be sure that attics are well ventilated so hot air can escape as it rises to the highest section of the home.
Block the heat of the sun
Keep shades or window blinds pulled down in areas of the home most exposed to sunshine during various hours of the day. Installing double- or triple-pane windows creates a pocket of air between the panes that acts as a layer of insulation. Storm doors also create the same effect in mitigating the heat from the sunlight streaming in the door panes.
You might also consider adding a layer of reflective coating to a black roof. This reflects the sunlight rather than absorbing the heat. If you've ever walked on a black asphalt road surface in bare feet in the summertime, you'll know how much heat can be absorbed and retained by a black asphalt roof.
Keep the cooled air in your air ducts
If your air ducts are leaking around the connections or seams, the air is not reaching the desired destinations in your home. You can apply duct sealer with a caulk gun and a duct sealer brush to all connections and seams, concentrating on the corner areas of rectangular ducts, where leaks are more likely to occur.
Use a water-based rather than a solvent-based duct sealant in the home. Solvent-based sealants contain chemicals that are volatile and dangerous to the health of the home's occupants.
Doing general maintenance will not only extend the life and efficiency of your air conditioning system, but it will also save you money and keep your family comfortable during the "dog days" of summer. If you think that your air conditioning unit needs a tune up before summer hits, contact a company like Nathan's Heating & Air Conditioning, Inc. for assistance.