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Fall AC Preparation

Labor Day Weekend is just a week away, which means that fall weather isn’t far behind. This “in-between” time is when homeowners start to consider fall maintenance – and preparing for the cooler temperatures. While this usually includes scheduling an annual furnace tune-up, most people don’t give their air conditioner condenser a second thought. But taking a few simple steps to prepare your condenser for fall and winter will ensure that it runs efficiently next summer. It will also help to avoid a costly repair if inclement weather or other seasonal problems wreak havoc on your Champaign home.

It would be great if the weather could be counted on to change along with the calendar, but sometimes the summer is determined to remain long after the expiration date. Which means you might want to wait until the first official cold snap before you prepare the condenser for its long winter’s nap. But it’s not too early to begin planning for your prep, which shouldn’t take longer than a few hours over a weekend.

Changing the Filter – During the summer, when you are using your air conditioning every day, you should change out the air filter every month. If you’ve recently changed the filter, you can skip this step. But changing out a dirty filter during fall/winter preparation is recommended. A dirty filter can compromise your unit, even when not in use, so making sure that you have a clean one during maintenance is a good idea.

Homeowner Maintenance: Changing the HVAC Filter

Cleaning the Condenser (Exterior) – The condenser is the outdoor unit, usually located in the back yard. Before you start to clean it, you will need to turn off the power. If you can’t locate the outdoor shut-off you will need to turn off the power to the A/C at the main electrical panel. Remove all surrounding debris including leaves, dead grass and other yard detritus. After you have cleaned around the unit, you will want to vacuum the fins (the blades that surround the unit allowing the air to flow). The fins are easily bent so you will want to clean them with a soft brush attachment.

Bent Fins – If the fins have been bent or dented, you will want to straighten them out. You can find “fin combs” at the local hardware store – or use a screwdriver to open them back up. It is important that the fins are open for maximum airflow. If many of them have crushed you might consider calling a technician to straighten them out.

Cleaning the Condenser (Interior) – Check the owner’s manual for how to open the top to gain access to the fan. Once it is open you will need to unscrew the fan to get to the interior of the condenser. The fan will remain attached by wires and might not allow enough room for you to clean without someone else holding it for you. Gently vacuum out any debris that has collected in the inside. If you are ambitious, you might consider lubricating the fan motor and compressor, but you need to check the owner’s manual for specific directions on lubrication ports.

Condenser Cover – There is some debate about whether or not it’s a good idea to cover your condenser in the fall and winter. Rodents have been known to seek shelter in units that have been covered. But if your home has been damaged by the elements – or your yard is filled with tree detritus every fall and winter, a cover is worth considering.

Should I Cover My A/C?

If you need help with preparing your condenser for fall, our technicians are more than happy to assist you. We can also schedule a complete fall HVAC tune-up to ensure that both your air conditioner and furnace are ready for autumn. Call us today at (217) 866-1596 to schedule an appointment.