How To Protect Your AC

There’s nothing like a bunch of schmutz to make your air conditioner run less efficiently, and cost you more in electricity, repairs, and requiring a new one faster. Here’s a few reminder tips from Consumer Reports about proper care and maintenance of your AC to keep it “cool runnings.”

  • Take out the filter and vacuum off debris. Wash it in warm, soapy water. Rinse the filter let it dry completely, then reinstall. If the filter is very dirty or your usage increases significantly, clean the filter more often.
  • If dirt and debris have bypassed the filter, you will need to remove the front panel and vacuum dust and debris from the coils.
  • Replace a deteriorated filter.

Protect Your Investment: Maintain your air conditioner [Consumer Reports]

(Photo: Maulleigh)

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  1. apotheosis says:

    And remember, if you’ve got central air, hose any crap out of the cooling vanes in the fan thingy outside.

    (condenser? compressor? whatever. the big noisy thingy with the fan.)

  2. Greasy Thumb Guzik says:

    Don’t forget to do the same with dehumidifiers, which are pretty much the same as A/Cs.
    Except that a lot of older dehumidifiers don’t have filters & you need a fin comb to clean the dirt off of the coils, after you’ve had to completely disassembled the case.

  3. Nighthawke says:

    Older window-shakers (we AC techs call them that) usually have deteriorated coils. You can identify them from how the fins look. If the bottom row of the coils look like they are falling apart, flattened against the tubing, or just flat out gone, it’s time to get a new unit.
    Past experience cleaning coils on them has taught many a tech that after cleaning them may wind up quitting after a short time, especially the older units. When a squirrel cage gets blocked up, they run faster with no load. After cleaning they load back up and the odds of them quitting is rather high.

  4. jaydez says:

    My parents just had to replace a 7 year old window unit on Saturday because the inside of it developed a nasty black mold problem.

    We still dont know how this one had the problem but none of the others in the house did.

  5. richcreamerybutter says:

    I fear my new AC is way too loud (like, ears ringing in the morning. WTF Frigidaire?!). It will most likely be replaced later in the summer, so if anyone has a quiet one on the lower BTU end (to fit a very small window) they love I’d love to hear what brand you’re using. Sadly I didn’t have the luxury of time for the copious research I usually apply in an appliance or electronic purchase due to this recent heatwave.

  6. TPS Reporter says:

    @richcreamerybutter: We bought a Sharp brand one about 5 years ago (6000 BTU) and use it in our bedroom every year, I took the cover off in the spring and cleaned it real well and it has worked great. It is pretty quiet even on high. The 2 Frigidaire ones we have in the kitchen and LR are noisy on high. Sounds like a jet airplane taking off.

  7. ryan_h says:

    Sounds like a good tip, I will try this out!

  8. Trai_Dep says:

    #1 Tip: Only use it at last resort.

  9. DaisyGatsby says:

    @richcreamerybutter: @MrBill38:

    Okay, I *just* bought a 5000 BTU Frigidaire last night and it sounds like a Jacuzzi. I’m going to try and put it on that 5/16″ pitch and hope that drainage makes that rainstormy sound go away. Otherwise I’m looking into portable units come payday.

  10. Orv says:

    A couple of other tips:

    - Don’t run the unit during a brownout. The low voltage will cause the compressor motor to run hot and burn out. Long extension cords can have the same effect, due to voltage drop along the cord.

    - If you switch the unit off for any reason, wait 5 minutes for the compressor to cool before restarting it. Again, this protects the motor.

    (hope this isn’t a double post. The site’s being weird for me.)

    @VocalLizzy: In my experience portable units are not particularly quiet either. In fact they can be noisier — both fans are inside the house instead of one inside and one outside.

  11. krom says:

    Schmutz, is that Ben’s favorite word of the month or something? That’s the third “schmutz” story in two weeks.

  12. @krom: Maybe Ben’s taking a Yiddish class. :D

  13. JayDeEm says:

    @apotheosis: I actually do this about once a month since A/C is a large chunk of my yearly energy consumption here in Phoenix. Yearly service, keeping the filters clean and checking the external drain lines are also part of my regimen. Service techs are booked at least a week out during the summer out here, so keeping that A/C working is pretty important.

  14. nlongtin says:

    Also, try and position units in the shade. They have to work a lot harder when baking in the sun all day, and parts will wear out faster.

    Many people rip the vines off their houses each spring, I leave them on so my window air conditions have shade. It helps quite a bit.

  15. FLConsumer says:

    @VocalLizzy: That “rainstorm” sound is actually the sound of efficiency — most newer window ACs collect the condensate and throw it against the condensing coil to help cool it down (the water’s cold + evaporative cooling when the cool water hits the hot coil). Circumventing this will increase the amount of energy the AC will use. If you’re looking for a quiet window unit, look at Sharp & Panasonic units. They’re more expensive…for a reason. Also don’t discount mini-split ACs. They’re far more efficient and quiet than window ACs but do require a somewhat permanent installation (3″ hole to pass the refrigerant & condensate tubes through). The better ones (Mitsubishi, Fujitsu, Sanyo) are absolutely dead-silent, enough to do some audio recording with them still going.

    @Orv: As long as it’s not an el-cheapo “Made in China” AC, low voltage & short-cycling aren’t a problem.

    /Can’t imagine life with a window AC