Got Central Air? Use This Top-to-Bottom Air Conditioner Maintenance Checklist

by Team HomeServe
pouring white vinegar down a pvc pipe being used as a condensation drain for an air conditioner

As part of your annual home maintenance, there are a few steps you should take to keep your central cooling system running smoothly. If you want to stay cool during the hottest parts of the year, you'll want to make sure your central air conditioner is in tip-top shape. To do that, you’ll need to develop a maintenance routine.

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](, you can do a lot of these tasks yourself. But remember: Safety first. Before you begin any maintenance, make sure the air conditioner is turned off.

Yearly Maintenance Tasks

Each year, make sure you perform these maintenance tasks:

Clean the Evaporator Coil

Located in a panel on the indoor part of your unit, the evaporator coil works best without dust on its coils. You can use a soft brush and a coil cleaner to remove grime gently.

pvc pipe being used as a condensation drain for an air conditioner

Clear Out the Evaporator Drain

Regularly clearing your drain line keeps debris from building up and causing water to back up inside of your home. You can pour vinegar or a drain line cleaner through it for an easy clean, or you can use a drain snake or wet vac to break up clogs.

Remove Plants From Around the Condenser

Go to the outside unit and clear away any weeds, grass or other plants that could be growing up around the unit.

Clean the Condenser

Clean the outdoor unit just like the evaporator coil. Scrub gently with a soft brush and coil cleaner, then rinse the unit.

Inspect the Condenser Fins

Check the fins on the cover of your condenser. Make sure all the fins are straight and not corroded.

external HVAC air conditioner

Quarterly AC Maintenance
The majority of HVAC maintenance should be done on an annual basis. However, there is one important exception to the rule. You need to remember to change your filters at least once every three months. Keep in mind that this is the bare minimum for standard pleated filters. If you use thinner, flat filters, you may need to change them every month. It might also be a good idea to change filters on a monthly basis if you have a lot of pets, if it’s pollen season or if your area has other air quality issues.

This small AC maintenance task is essential to keeping your system running smoothly. Filters keep out all sorts of debris that would otherwise get sucked into your HVAC system. This debris can do more than just damage your air quality; it can also clog drain lines, make it harder for blower fans to move and reduce your machine's cooling capability.

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Professional Maintenance Checklist

Homeowners can do quite a bit on their own to keep their air conditioners in good shape. However, you should also schedule a professional tune-up at least once a year. This provides more in-depth maintenance than you could do yourself. Any professional tune-up should include these maintenance tasks:

System Checkup

An expert technician should go over your entire system, looking for leaks or loose fittings that could cause big problems later on. They will check the refrigerant level and other important components as well.

Thermostat Calibration

This test ensures the thermostat is reading the proper indoor temperature.

Monitor Operation

The technician will check to make sure your AC unit's air temperature and pressure are within acceptable guidelines.

Fan Cleaning and Lubrication

The expert technician will go over the fans in your blower and compressor to clean off any excess grime and lubricate the moving parts of the fan motor.

Filter Cleaning

If you don't use a disposable filter, the tech may clean your reusable one for you.

Evaporator and Coil Cleaning

Some homeowners do not feel comfortable doing this maintenance themselves, so a professional will do it if they notice any grime or drain pan buildup.

Tightening Electrical Connections

All the moving parts can pull wiring loose over time. An expert AC tech will make sure the entire cooling system is appropriately wired.

How Often Should You Schedule Professional HVAC Maintenance?

Like most other aspects of air conditioner maintenance, the general rule of thumb is that you should get a professional tune-up on an annual basis. Often, it is a good idea to schedule the maintenance right before your busy season. In most places, spring is an ideal time to have maintenance done. It ensures your central air system is running smoothly right before it spends weeks cooling your home nonstop. If spring is not a good time for you, consider fall. This will allow for a checkup of your air conditioner before it is inactive for several months.

The majority of people only need maintenance once a year. However, there are a few exceptions to this rule. If you live in an area where your AC unit runs pretty much year-round, you might want to schedule an extra maintenance appointment. It can also be a good idea to have maintenance performed every six months if you have an older system that you want to keep active for as long as possible.