DIY Heating and Air Conditioning: Part Two

In the first part of our series on some quick ways to make sure that your heater or air conditioning system is working as well as it can, we covered how and why to check your vents for obstructions. You can read that entry here. Your friends at Blue Ox Energy now present you with the second part in this series.

photo2blogCheck Your Outdoor A/C Unit

If your vents look okay, the next thing to check is the outdoor unit that pulls air into the house to be cooled. Check for the following:

  • Is the unit unobstructed? There shouldn’t be any tree branches, leaves, or other yard waste close to the unit, nor should there be any other kind of clutter like tools, wood, or really anything else. Keep the area clear. If you block the area up the unit has to work harder to push out the hot air that is generated by the pressurized refrigerant carrying the heat from inside of your home, and an obstructed unit is harder to get to when it needs servicing.
  • How does the unit look? Can you see a lot of crushed up leaves, dried grass or dust inside? If it looks dirty, clean it. This is a relatively simple process. Start by turning off the power to the unit. Then remove the outer shroud that surrounds and protects the condenser fins. The condenser fins are the part of the outside unit that look like a bunch of tiny pieces of metal arranged in a repeating grid pattern. The condenser fins are what you want to make sure are really clean, but they’re also very delicate, so use a soft brush that attaches to your vacuum to gently lift off any dirt or dust that might be on the fins.
    • If you happen to bend a fin, don’t panic: they can bend back into shape with a set of fin combs. If you open the unit and the fins are badly bent or crushed, don’t try and put them back into shape yourself. At that point it’s best to call a professional to straighten or replace your fins.
  • Check inside the rest of the unit. Can you see any visible damage to the top fan? Are there a bunch of old leaves inside? If you feel comfortable removing the fan and cleaning the inside, go for it!

photo3blogWinterizing Your Outdoor A/C Unit

Getting your A/C ready for winter is probably the easiest winterization you’ll have to do for any part of your house. Get a piece of wood — preferably not particle board, as it will tend to waterlog and fall apart — that will cover the top of your unit (where the fan is) and weigh the corners down with bricks. This will keep snow from piling up on the inside of your unit where it could freeze, expand, and damage the delicate condenser fins and the other equipment inside your air conditioner.

It’s safe to ignore advice from people who suggest that you wrap your unit in a trap or plastic for winter. This will trap moisture inside and around the unit, which could lead to rust. Tarps and plastic also have a way of coming loose, which could encourage wildlife to hang out around your unit.

If any of these steps seem like they will take too much time to do with your busy schedule, or if you know that you need some condenser fins straightened out, please call us at Blue Ox Energy. Our services can’t be beat, and we have several affordable maintenance plans that can be added to your fuel budgets to help you save money.