3 Things to Check on Your AC Condenser Before Winter

Posted on: 22 September 2020

When the first hot day of spring arrives, you want to be able to turn your thermostat down and enjoy a refreshing blast of cold air. Unfortunately, neglecting maintenance in the fall and winter can lead to surprising and disappointing failures when the warm weather returns. With summer finally coming to a close, there's no better to take care of some routine maintenance tasks.

Below you'll find three air conditioning maintenance tasks to address before the weather starts to turn cold and gray.

1. Check Your Insulation

When you look at your outdoor unit, you should see two hard plumbing lines leading into your home. In most cases, these lines should span a relatively short distance from the condenser to the nearest exterior wall. One of the two pipes is the liquid line that brings warm refrigerant back to the condenser, while the other is the suction line that delivers cold refrigerant to your evaporator.

The suction line should be insulated to prevent condensation from forming on it, but this insulation can wear away over time. Checking and replacing the condition of your suction line insulation is a cheap and easy way to maintain your system's efficiency. Look for signs of cracking or insulation that appears to be peeling away from the plumbing. Note that the liquid line does not require insulation.

2. Inspect Condenser Coil Fins

Your condenser coil fins are the most visible part of your outside air conditioning unit. You can remove the outer housing to get better access, if necessary. The fins on the coils provide the surface area required for the liquid-phase refrigerant to release its heat into the ambient environment. For the fins to work effectively, they must be relatively straight, clean, and have sufficient air to flow around them.

When you inspect the coils, look for bent or damaged sections. It's also a good idea to check for any excessive build-up of dust, debris, or mold. You can use a foaming coil cleaner to get your coils looking like new again, and you should (carefully) remove any large debris stuck near them. If too many fins seem to be bent, then an HVAC technician should be able to correct the problem for you.

3. Evaluate Wiring

You can find your disconnect box on a nearby wall, with a single armored electrical cable running to the condenser unit. Inside the box should be a breaker that you can use to shut down power to the air conditioner, which you should do before evaluating the wiring. Once you've safely disconnected the power, remove the fuse block from the disconnect box to check the condition of the fuses.

In addition to inspecting the fuses, you can check the wiring to the disconnect box and the condenser unit itself. Look for signs of damaged insulation, frayed wires, or other apparent problems. Since your air conditioner uses dangerous amounts of voltage, always contact a professional if you spot trouble.