NYC Metro Area’s HVACR Blog

Commercial Air Conditioning, Commercial HVAC, Preventive Maintenance Agreements

Air Conditioner Maintenance Tips for the DIYer


Air conditioner maintenance

If you’re a small business owner, you’re probably used to getting things done yourself. So you might be tempted to try air conditioner maintenance tasks to save money. The problem is, you can end up costing yourself more when you’re in over your head.

Check out these air conditioner maintenance tips and do DIY the smart way.

Safe DIY air conditioner maintenance tips

Here are some DIY tasks that are safe and effective for you to do yourself:

Change the batteries in your thermostat. Avoid your AC not working due to failure of your digital controls. Make it easy to remember by changing the batteries for your digital thermostat at the same time as your smoke detector.

Change or clean your air filter according to manufacturer’s instructions. If you don’t have the paperwork that came with your unit, check the exterior unit for a nameplate. Then you can search the manufacturer’s website for instructions for your model.

Have a technician come in and give you air conditioner maintenance tips during an inspection. This will help you learn how to change the filter yourself between appointments. This is especially worthwhile if your business uses chemicals or works with paper or fabric, which put large amounts of fiber in the air.

In case you missed it, learn more about changing your air filter from this post: What Happens When You Don’t Change the AC Filter

Choose the right filter for your environment. If there are many allergy sufferers in your office, you can get higher efficiency filters for your system. But ALWAYS check with the pros before upgrading your filters because you can end up damaging your system or reducing performance.

The best air conditioner maintenance tips we can give you involve keeping your system clean. Clear airflow is important to your HVAC system. Help this along by ensuring that there are no clogged filters, closed or blocked registers, or leaky ducts. Move storage and equipment away from inside units and clean leaves and trash off of outside units. Air flow issues can lead to temperature variance, stuffy air, frozen coils, and compressor failure.

Replace a broken thermostat. Pay attention if your AC fails to reach the temperature you set it to. If you have a digital thermostat, it could be controlling the HVAC incorrectly.

Keep track of your maintenance schedule. You should have it done a couple times a year, so mark your calendar when you last had it done. Include coil cleaning in the maintenance package for even more insurance.

Clean water damage from leaks. Prevent as much water damage as you can after a malfunction, and try to find the source of the leak. This will keep you better informed when the repairman shows up. You can also remove water from drain lines and pan if they are clogged.

Make a duct cleaning appointment. It’s not part of regular maintenance, so it’s a good option if you suspect blockage or contamination. If you notice moldy smells, that’s a sign that your ducts need cleaning.

Learn more about duct cleaning from this article: Duct cleaning services: Why, when & how?

Unsafe DIY air conditioner maintenance to avoid

Disappointing DIY is everywhere. When it comes to air conditioner maintenance tips, failed DIY is a recipe for disaster. Not only could you further damage your air conditioner, but working with refrigerant chemicals and high voltage electricity can put your life in danger if you aren’t properly trained.

Stay safe and call in a professional for the following tasks:

Don’t try to clean the coils. Evaporator and condenser coils are delicate: those tiny fins are easily damaged if you use the wrong cleaning products or methods. And those parts are vital to your HVAC. Damaged coils will lead to overheating and larger failures.

Don’t try to add refrigerant. As we mentioned, it’s dangerous to handle these chemicals. Also, this task calls for trained precision and knowledge of exactly how much refrigerant is needed. If your AC is low on refrigerant, it has a leak that must be found and fixed.

Cleaning your unit can prevent this problem. Dirt and contaminants can corrode lines, leading to refrigerant leaks.

Don’t try to fix electrical issues. If there’s damage to your AC or furnace after a power outage, power the system down and leave it off until you get help. Needless to say, if you’re not trained to handle high voltage electricity, doing this yourself can be a deadly mistake.

The risks of trying AC maintenance without training

HVAC technicians need years of training. They receive certifications to ensure they can properly handle all sorts of equipment. Technicians learn not only how to fix things but also how to care for them safely. This education can’t be substituted for a few tutorials on YouTube.

There are downsides to tackling HVAC maintenance yourself. Here’s what you risk when you attempt a repair beyond your skill level.

  • At any given moment your AC unit is using enough power to kill you or start a fire. Don’t put yourself at risk by messing with electrical components of your unit.
  • Air conditioners use dangerous refrigerant chemicals in their coils. HVAC repairmen are required to have EPA 608 certification before they can work with these chemicals.
  • Professionals use many specialized tools that you don’t have access to.
  • Each system and brand of HVAC system is different and complex. Someone who gives unprofessional air conditioner maintenance tips online may not realize that their advice doesn’t hold true for every system or situation.
  • In addition to dangerous elements, some HVAC parts are delicate. The evaporator coil and heat exchangers can be easily damaged. So before attempting DIY maintenance, consider the consequences. You don’t want your DIY repair to make things worse.

More air conditioner maintenance tips to save money

Learn! The best way you can take care of your HVAC system yourself is to be informed of its needs. Familiarize yourself with the type of system your office has. Keep track of when it was last worked on or cleaned. Use these air conditioner maintenance tips for including HVAC care in your office routine.

Research maintenance plans. You could get a full labor contract, which includes regular maintenance. Another type is a full coverage service contract, which pays for both replacement parts and labor. If you have contract, you may even get priority from your HVAC provider.

Learn more about the different types of contracts from this article: HVAC Service Contract Pricing Guide

Customize your payment schedule. You can contact your provider to get a monthly, quarterly, or yearly payment schedule.

Set up reminders to schedule regular maintenance when it’s convenient for you. Some companies send postcards, and some call you at the beginning of the month when service is due. Scheduling in advance can help you get a time slot that won’t interfere with your normal operations.

If you’ve gotten your contract with the same HVAC company for a few years, you might be able to get a longer-term contract to save money. Some offer as much as a 2 to 3 year agreement to loyal customers. Getting a locked-in rate for a longer time will help you save money.

Air conditioner maintenance advice for the non-HVAC-specialist

Office and facilities managers often wear a lot of hats. You can’t be a specialist in every aspect of your job, so who would expect you to be an HVAC professional?

Know your risks. Read more about how poor maintenance can cost you: Calculating the Hidden Costs of Poor HVAC Maintenance.

Get the guide to understanding your HVAC System's hidden costs.

Don’t miss the next topic in our series on Things Techs Wish People Knew About HVAC: Ventilation and how it impacts your HVAC comfort.