An air conditioner is often the unsung hero of an Australian summer; we can escape the searing heat by stepping inside and letting this marvel of technology cool down our space to bearable levels. Whether it be the local mall or the back of our car, an air conditioning system will save us from the heat, but what happens when the system has a malfunction or breaks down?
A reverse cycle air conditioner is a complex marvel of technology that requires regular maintenance to keep it operating smoothly. As a system, it works to cool or heat your home by way of evaporative coolers and a series of fans. To maintain this type of air conditioner split system requires some knowledge, but remains in the realm of possibility for the avid DIY enthusiast looking to save some money. Air conditioner repairs can be costly, so is it worth your time to work on your system yourself?
A series of tubes.
Comprehensive knowledge of your air conditioning system and its components is vital if you are to maintain or repair your own reverse cycle air conditioner. This information can be found in the owner’s manual or by contacting your manufacturer. In general, an air conditioner has three main components that need special attention: The condenser, filter, and the ducts themselves.
The condenser is the brawn of your AC system; it will usually show the most signs of wear and tear. The filter keeps nasties out of your air and needs to be cleaned yearly.
Over your air conditioner’s life, it will be pushing and pulling an extraordinary amount of air. As your space is heated or cooled, your AC system will also need a series of motors to push and pull this air and compress and expand these special gasses. These systems need to be kept clean for the best results. Throughout your AC unit’s life, it will need to be given a clean annually. The cost of a professional clean is around $150. To repair a condenser unit can start about $750.
Do it yourself.
To perform a clean on your AC systems condenser unit can be messy and time-consuming, but it certainly won’t cost you $150! All you need is a dust brush, a fin comb, a screwdriver, and a garden hose. Before you start any work, make sure the air conditioner is completely switched off from power.
The condenser fan can generally be removed with nothing more than a screwdriver. Clean the fan with a dust brush and the radiator fins with a fin comb. You can access the fan motor, which can be re-oiled with manufacture specific fan oil. All dirty outdoor parts can be sprayed down with tap water from a garden hose.
The filter is another vital part of an AC system that can be cleaned quite simply. Again, make sure your unit has been switched off. Once you have located and removed the filter, it can be cleaned with some water and a brush. If your filter is beyond cleaning, a new one can be purchased relatively cheaply from a wholesaler.
Cleaning the condenser unit and filter can have a noticeable effect on your unit’s efficiency. In some cases, a clogged filter and dirty condenser can reduce the efficiency of your machine by %15! An inefficiency can translate to higher power bills and more costly repairs later down the track.
Don’t do it yourself!
More complex tasks should be left to the professionals. Recycling the gasses in your AC is very important and must be done, but by doing it yourself, you risk exposure to these harmful gasses as well as releasing these gasses into the air. If you are not a qualified air conditioner repairman, then please don’t try to re-gas your system.
Repairing a damaged motor in your AC unit can be another costly but necessary repair. Unless you have a workshop, tools, and patience, repairing a fan motor is a complicated DIY project that might sit outside the realm of most DIYers.
Is it worth it?
Whether or not DIY air conditioner maintenance and repair is worth it depends on you. If you are an avid DIYer or have plenty of spare time, your yearly maintenance cycle could be fun and economical. By cleaning your components regularly, you can ensure you are getting the best performance possible from your machine. If you aren’t keen on putting in the elbow grease, pulling apart your air conditioner for messy and time-consuming cleaning might not seem like the best value, especially when it only costs $150 for a professional service.
If you and your AC repair person are on a first-name basis, it might be worth cracking out the tools and giving the maintenance a try. If you are like me and seek the satisfaction of doing something yourself and doing it right, then a routine service and clean of your unit is a really rewarding job. The process of pulling apart your machine can give insight into a seemingly magical system; this, to me, is the real value of doing something yourself. By rolling up your sleeves and getting dirty, you are learning how the world around you works and gaining knowledge and experience that can help you later on in life.
Maintaining your reverse cycle air conditioner can help lower your energy bill and keep money in your pocket that would have been spent on call-out fees. Overall, however, the cost of a professional maintaining your system is almost negligible. As stated above, the real value of doing it yourself is the knowledge and experience gained as well as the satisfaction of a job well done. By diving into the task, you will demystify a common household item, learn life long skills, and impress your friends and family, can you put a price on that?