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RISMEDIA, June 26, 2009-(MCT)-Q: Does an air conditioner need any anything done to it once the season begins?

A: Yes, an air conditioner should have a professional inspection and tune-up annually, just like a furnace. (Many arrange to have both systems checked and tuned at the same time; fall or spring, it doesn’t matter.)

Meanwhile, you need to clean your air conditioner.

-Disconnect the unit before you begin.

-Start with the coils. Dust and dirt act as insulators, reducing heat flow, so cleanliness is critical. (Continue this every month or so while in operation.) Central air conditioners have two coils. One, located inside (usually connected to the furnace ductwork), absorbs heat from the house, chilling the air and removing humidity. A second set of coils, outside the house, expels heat as a large fan blows air over the coils. A good shop vacuum should be up to the task. You may want to use a spray cleaner to loosen accumulated debris and dirt.

-Clean the drain pan. As air conditioners remove water vapor from the air, the cooling coil inside the house eventually drops below the dewpoint and water vapor condenses on the coil. As water accumulates, it flows outside the unit. Room air conditioners usually weep water out the back; central air conditioners usually drain through tubing to a floor drain. Keeping this drain system clean is a critical health issue. (A contractor can add a tablet to the pan that will keep bacteria from growing.) Make sure the condensate drain system and all filters and fans are clean.

-In addition, clean or replace filters each month while operating the air conditioner.

For central air conditioners, have a technician check the demand on the electric line and examine the refrigerant through a “sight glass” to identify if any contaminants are present. The temperature of incoming air and outgoing conditioned air also should be measured to assure proper drop in temperature; a difference of 18 to 20 degrees as it crosses the coils is correct in room and central systems.

-Source: Minnesota Office of Energy Security.

©2009, Star Tribune (Minneapolis)
Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.