Who doesn’t want to save money on cooling bills this summer? Sure, you change your filter regularly, but many homeowners forget about the other part of their air conditioner: the condenser unit, which sits outside all winter long.
If you really want your air conditioner to run efficiently, there are a few things you can do to your condenser that will help. The team at Jeremy Services has put together this five-step prep list to help make sure your outdoor unit is ready to give you its best this year.
Step 1: Safety First
First things first, before you do any work on your condenser unit, you will want to play it safe! Jeremy Services recommends that you turn off the electrical power to it at the panel. As an added measure of security, we also recommend that you turn off the disconnect box located outside of your home, near your unit.
This box will contain either a lever, fuses, or a circuit breaker to shut off the condenser. When you’re dealing with 240 volts of electricity, you don’t want to take any chances. Next, allow about 30 minutes for the electrical charge that’s stored in the condenser’s capacitor to dissipate. After that 30 minute resting time, it’s safe to work on the unit.
Step 2: Clean Around Your Unit
Over the long winter, your air conditioner collects dirt, dust, sticks, leaves, etc. Clear out any debris from the following places:
- Be sure to check that the fan (on the top) is clear of debris
- Look for a drain and make sure it is clear
- Clear around the base of the unit
- Cut down any tree limbs or plants hanging within three feet
- Trim back bushes near unit for good airflow
Don’t forget to remove the cover and clean the fan blades with a damp rag. Tighten any loose bolts where the fan is mounted. If the fan motor has oil ports, put a few drops of lightweight oil into the ports to lubricate them. Dry up any excess water inside the unit, then reassemble it.
Step 3: Clean the Condenser Coils
Check your coils and clean any dirt on them. To clean the coils, you will have to remove the side and top panels with a screwdriver. The fan is attached to the top, and it may be heavy! Be careful not to pull on the wires attached to the fan.
Next, use a soft brush to gently clean the coils from the outside of the unit. Do not bend the fins. They are very delicate to help dissipate heat from the unit faster. If your fins are damaged, you can use a special comb called a fin comb to straighten them.
Clean the coils from the outside, and then again from the inside, to remove all dirt. If the dirt doesn’t seem to be coming off with a soft brush, you can use a commercial coil cleaner to loosen the dirt and spray lightly with a hose. Before you get anything wet, cover the fan motor and any electrical components with a plastic bag. Spray from the inside out.
Related Read: Can You Really Save with a New Furnace & AC?
Step 4: Check the Coolant Lines for Damage and Insulation
The pipes that connect the condenser unit outside to the evaporator on the inside unit are called refrigerant tubes. Check them to make sure they aren’t loose or damaged. These tubes are usually covered with foam insulation for efficiency. If they aren’t covered, or the insulation is frayed, replace it. You can find foam sleeves or foam insulation tape at any home improvement store.
Step 5: Test the Unit
Wait for the unit to dry thoroughly before turning it on to test it. To test the unit, turn the thermostat in your home to off. Then, turn on the power at both the main panel and the disconnect box. Next, switch the thermostat to cool.
After a few minutes, you should feel cool air blowing from the ducts. When checking your outdoor unit, you will find that the air blowing out the top should be warmer than the surrounding air. Don’t forget to make sure your inside filter is clean as well. You’ll not only have better efficiency, but cleaner air to boot!