Most car owners understand how regular maintenance like oil changes, tire rotations and filter changes can go a long way towards maximizing performance. It’s a small price to pay to extend the life of the vehicle. The same goes with air conditioners. And, understanding the value of air conditioner maintenance means understanding a little more about how your air conditioning unit works.
In most cases, your central air conditioner is actually a system that includes an indoor unit and an outdoor unit connected by copper tubing and electrical wiring. The complete system often both heats and cools your home, depending on the types of equipment installed. Keeping all parts of the system in good operating condition can be vital to your comfort, your system’s efficiency and helping keep utility bills in check.
- Outdoor unit – Also called a condenser unit, the typical outdoor unit includes the large condensing coil that usually wraps around most of the unit, a compressor, a fan and motor and electronic controls.
- Indoor unit – Either a furnace or a fan coil, the typical indoor unit houses an evaporator coil, blower fan and fan motor, and an air filter.
Here's how it works
- With the help of the compressor in the outdoor unit, a chemical refrigerant circulates between the indoor and outdoor units, through copper tubing called “refrigerant lines.”
- Heat energy is pulled from indoor air though the evaporator coil and exits the system through the outdoor condensing coil.
- Cooler air is blown back into the home through ductwork, and heat energy escapes outside.
During normal air conditioner operation, dust, dirt, moisture from humidity or condensation, and microbial growths can build up on internal components. Left unchecked, these issues can corrode components like the evaporator coil and condenser coil. Over time, those components can become less effective and lead to a loss of efficiency or worse, a shorter air conditioner lifespan.
Regular AC maintenance and tune-ups can minimize many of the issues caused by build-up of dirt and debris. If they are performed by an HVAC technician, these inspections allow your contractor to check for longer-term issues and in some cases take proactive steps to prevent premature failure or inconvenient breakdowns during the cooling season.
Annual air conditioner preventative maintenance may also be a requirement to keep your warranty valid as well. Many manufacturers state on warranty documentation that installation and maintenance by a licensed HVAC service provider are a part of the warranty conditions.
Figure 1: Sample Diagram of Air Conditioner