Air Conditioning Maintenance: The Ultimate Guide (2021 Update)

September 2, 2023

You rely on your air conditioning system to keep your home cool and comfortable, but your A/C system requires regular maintenance to function efficiently for that to happen.

Just like any other home appliance, it's normal for your air conditioning unit to experience some wear and tear from regular use and develop mechanical problems at some point during its lifetime.

Keeping your system up and running smoothly requires proper attention to its maintenance and service needs. System maintenance can also save you money and headaches from unexpected breakdowns that can leave you sweaty and fuming! 

If you are looking to keep your home comfortable (and who isn't?), then keeping your A/C running is a must.

Let's take a look at what you can do and when you need to call in the pros when it comes to air conditioner maintenance...


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Chapter 1

How Your Air Conditioner Works

If you recently moved from a home where you mostly used fans, window-mounted air conditioners or are thinking of installing a central air unit, you may not be too familiar with the central A/C system. Don't worry... we can help.

Central air conditioning units operate in the same way that your refrigerator does, but on a larger scale. Essentially, your air conditioner quickly converts gas to liquid and back again using chemicals that move the heat in the air from inside your home to outside. 

For a more in-depth look at how your A/C unit works, check out these resources.


Everything You Need to Know About How Central A/C Works

Behind the Scenes: How Your Air Conditioner Works

How Does My Air Conditioner Work? [Video]

Chapter 2

Why Does My A/C Need Maintenance?

Just as your car requires regular maintenance to run smoothly and properly, your A/C also requires regular care. Proactively taking care of your air conditioner not only extends the life of your unit but can also save you a substantial amount of money on repair and replacement costs. Something as simple as changing the air filter in your unit can prolong its efficiency and improve the air quality in your home. 

What other steps can you take to keep your unit running like new? Check out these resources to find out:


Learn the Effects of Humidity on HVAC Performance 

11 Steps to Follow Before You Turn on the Air Conditioner

Chapter 3

How to Shut Off Your A/C Power

When repairing or installing your A/C unit, it is essential to turn off the power to your unit. Turning off your air conditioner's power not only protects your equipment and the unit itself but also protects you from getting an electrical shock. Always check to see if you've successfully turned off your system by attempting to turn heating and cooling on from your existing thermostat.


How do I Turn the Power Off to my Heating and Cooling System?

How to Turn On & Off Your Circuit Breaker [Video]

Chapter 4

How to Clean Your Outdoor A/C Condenser Unit

Cleaning your condenser unit outside yearly will increase the efficiency of your air conditioner and protect your investment. This is an easy DIY cleaning project, but you can also hire a professional to clean your unit for you if you don't have time. Cleaning the condenser is especially important if dandelions grow around your unit or an abundance of leaves or grass clippings. 


Air Conditioning Cleaning: How To Clean Central A/C Condenser Unit Coils

Cleaning Coils in Outside A/C Units [Video]

Chapter 5

How to Level Your Outdoor A/C Condenser Unit

Moving your air conditioning unit can be a daunting task, but if the unit is not leveled correctly, it may fail to function properly and could cause refrigerant leaks. Be sure to use a level to check your unit at least once a year, as the earth under your unit is constantly changing and settling.

Below are a few resources on how to level your unit:


What to Watch for When Leveling A/C Compressor

Is Your Air conditioner or Heat Pump Level?

Chapter 6

How to Clean Your Evaporator Coil

The Evaporator coils in your A/C unit are essential in cooling your home. Not only do they help cool things off, but they also remove the moisture in the air that causes that sticky humidity. Since these coils are typically moist from the condensation, they can easily collect dust and dirt and become dirty. Dirty coils prevent your central A/C unit from functioning efficiently, but they are also easy to clean.

Here are some helpful resources: 


How to Clean A/C Evaporator Coils

HVAC Evaporator Coil Cleaning [Video]

Chapter 7

What if Your Condensate Drain Line is Clogged?

Remember that evaporator coil we talked about? To prevent all the moisture in that coil from living in your A/C unit, the condensate drain line removes that moisture from the unit. Since this drain line is almost always moist, it's a breeding ground for mold and mildew, which can cause the drain line to get clogged. This is one of the most common reasons a pro is called in to fix an air conditioner, which means cash out of your pocket.

Luckily, this can be prevented with some simple maintenance once or twice a year:


How to Clean Your Air Conditioner's Condensate Drain Line

Removing a Blockage From Condensate Drain Line

A/C Drain Line Clean Out [Video]

Chapter 8

Changing Your Blower Filter

Just as your dressers and countertops collect dust, so does the air filter in your air conditioner. Imagine if you never dusted inside your home; it would get pretty stuffy and hard to breathe after a while, right? Well, that's what's happening inside your air conditioner if you don't replace the filters regularly. You'd be surprised how much gunk and dust gets collected in a relatively short time. Fortunately, cleaning your air filter is an easy task and helps your unit run efficiently while also improving your air quality.


Never Forget to Replace Your Air Filter Again

How to Change a Furnace or Air Conditioner Filter [Video]

How to Replace Air Filters

Chapter 9

Why Use Programmable Thermostats to Adjust Home Temperature

When installed correctly and configured properly, a programmable thermostat will help maintain a comfortable home and adjust the home temperature automatically throughout the day. It can help save money and manage to cool your home without hovering over the older dial models.

Here are some helpful resources:


8 Benefits of Programmable Thermostats 

Are Programmable Thermostats Worth It?

How to Install Nest Thermostat [Video]

Chapter 10

When You Should Call a Pro

As we mentioned, keeping your air conditioning system running smoothly and efficiently requires proper, consistent maintenance and service needs. While most of the problems we discussed can be easily fixed at home, some issues require the attention of a certified technician. They have the knowledge and experience to diagnose the problem quickly and get your system up and running safely.

Here are some tips on contacting a pro...


Calling in an HVAC Pro 

How to Hire an HVAC Company

Why You Shouldn't DIY HVAC Repairs 

Chapter 11

Air Conditioner Maintenance Tips You Can Do Yourself (Checklist)

Is your air conditioner ready for summer? There is nothing worse than feeling hot and sticky.

Use these quick tips to have your A/C running smooth. And it will help prolong the life of your air conditioner and help it run more efficiently.

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Outdoor unit...

1. Keep it Clean

Check and clean the unit of any debris. Over time dirt, grass, leaves, and more can surround your unit, reducing airflow. Clean the area before turning the A/C on for the summer and trim any shrubs to keep the air flowing.  

2. Level the Air Conditioner Unit

Make sure your air conditioner pad is in a stable position. Compressors on concrete pads can settle over time. This places strain on the coolant lines.  

Level the condenser for better performance. 

3. Fix Your Fins

Fins on an A/C unit are fragile. When the fins are bent, heat can get trapped within the unit. This can lead to performance issues and controlling temperatures in your home. Bent fins can be fixed in a few simple steps. 

HVAC gives you the steps to carefully fix bent fins. "What do I do if my outside air conditioner has bent fins?

4. Unclog the condensate drain tube

The condensate drain removes the condensation produced by your air conditioner's evaporator coils. 

If the line is not cleaned, mold can grow inside, clogging the drain.

5. Clean the air conditioner coils

If your coils are blocked, it will decrease airflow and the efficiency of your unit.

5. Check the insulation

Check the insulation around the line to make sure everything still looks good.

Indoor unit...

6. Check the air filter

The most critical maintenance task that will improve the efficiency of your air conditioner is to replace or clean the air filters routinely. 

You should be able to see the light through the filter.

7. Clean the drain line

Make sure the drain line is not clogged. 

Part of your summer ritual should be to have your system checked by a trained technician. Once a year, have a Certified HVAC technician tune-up and inspect your A/C unit.


Easy Steps to Keep Your Air Conditioning Unit Running Smoothly  

Air Conditioner Maintenance Checklist

What Do I Do If My Outside Air Conditioner Has Bent Fins?

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