Your home's central air conditioning system represents a significant financial investment, so it only makes sense to take steps to protect it. Unfortunately, many homeowners aren't aware of their responsibilities when it comes to maintaining their air conditioners. Poorly maintained air conditioners tend to break down and fail way before the end of their expected lifespans.

That is why you need to understand exactly what steps should be taken to keep your air conditioning system well maintained. Below are three critical maintenance duties that will prevent your air conditioner from dying an early death.

Regularly Change Air Filters

One of the simplest maintenance tasks performed by homeowners is regularly changing the air filters. Sadly, this easy and low-cost maintenance step is often neglected, and this can result in negative consequences for air conditioners.

Many people assume that filters are used in air conditioners to keep the air clean. While this is true to an extent, filters are primarily in place to prevent contaminants from entering the air handler and impacting the cooling function of the system or causing internal damage.

For example, the blower inside the air handler, known as a squirrel cage fan, spins on bearings. If dirt, dust or other fine debris enters the air handler, it can work its way into the bearings and cause premature wear-and-tear.

That is why homeowners should promptly replace air filters. Glass-strand filters are designed to last about a month, while pleated filters may last longer; the manufacturer of a filter in question will provide replacement interval information to users.

Periodically Clean Evaporator Coil

Another maintenance task that will keep an air conditioner running smoothly for longer is cleaning the evaporator coil. The evaporator coil is a component located inside the air handler, and it absorbs heat from inside the home, thus cooling the air.

For the evaporator coil to function properly, it must be able to easily exchange heat with the passing air. The coil is made from copper and aluminum, and its design readily allows heat to pass through its exterior. However, a coil that is covered with dust and debris will be limited in its ability to function.

For example, a dirty evaporator coil is insulated by its debris, and the amount of heat transferring from the air to the coil is limited. That means the unit will work harder and longer to maintain the same level of comfort in the home. This, in turn, will shorten the lifespan of the air conditioner.

As a result, regularly cleaning the evaporator coil is necessary for maintaining the unit's efficiency and prevent it from overworking. Coil cleaning can be performed at home by handy individuals, but an AC technician can perform a professional job without risking damage to the system. The unit is often difficult to reach and may be in a dark, cramped location.

Keep Condenser Coil Free of Clutter

In addition to the evaporator coil, central air conditioning systems contain another coil that transfers heat. However, instead of absorbing heat from the inside air, the condenser coil releases heat into the outside air.

The condenser coil is in the system's outdoor unit alongside the compressor and cooling fan. In most systems, the condenser coil wraps around some or all of the outdoor unit and permits air to freely pass through it. As with the evaporator coil, thin, conductive metal enhances the heat transfer process. Likewise, dirty condenser coils also inhibit hot air’s ability to pass from the refrigerant to the outside air.

That is why keeping the condenser coil clean is also important. Since it is located outdoors, the condenser coil is vulnerable to being clogged by leaves, dead grass, sand, cobwebs and all kinds of other debris. Fortunately, condenser coils are usually much easier to clean since they are easy to access. A wet/dry vacuum and a garden hose are often sufficient for stripping away debris.

If you have questions about your central air conditioning system or need help maintaining it, be sure to call Air Necessities Heating and Cooling. Their team of professionals is ready to assist you.