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Helping Your A/C Keep It's Cool

Spring 2005

Spring is in the air. Before the temperatures transition to the summer heat, now is a great time to make sure your Air Conditioning System is ready for another season of dependable service. The proper maintenance of your air conditioning system will help ensure a long and efficient life for your air conditioning system.

The average lifespan of air conditioning systems is approximately 10-15 years. Ensuring a long efficient life of your homes air conditioning system starts with two angles of preventive maintenance, the frequent changing or cleaning of the systems air filter and a preventive maintenance "tune-up" before the cooling season..

Changing your air filter monthly is your first line of defense. A clean air filter collects dust and dirt before they come in contact with the vital components within the air conditioning system. A dirty filter can collapse and allow the trapped contaminants to reach the components. Further, a dirty filter creates excessive pressure on the blower system and restricts the proper amount of air flow to pass through the evaporator coil potentially creating damage to your air conditioning system. There are two types of air filters to choose from, disposable and permanent washable/reusable air filters. Here's some information to consider when choosing an air filter for your system:

Disposable air filters are very popular and offer a low upfront cost and minimal maintenance. Disposable air filters range from the spun fiberglass to electrostatically charged pleated filters. The performance of the air filters range with their costs. Typical filters range from $2.00 to $15.00 each.

The varying performance characteristics are as follows:
Filter Efficiency – the type, size and number of particles the filter is able to trap
Pleated – A pleated filter provides additional surface area for particles to be trapped
Electrostatically charged - Filters with electrostatic charging can attract and capture particles that other filters can miss.
Frame Strength - It is important that a filter frame be able to withstand pressure created by air movement through the filter without bending or collapsing. If a frame bends, it can allow unfiltered air to bypass the filter. And if the filter frame collapses, it can be drawn into the furnace fan - often resulting in considerable damage. While the true test of a filter's frame strength would be in your furnace, a simple inspection at the store should give you an idea of a filter's sturdiness.

Permanent Washable/Reusable air filters are less popular but offer lower overall filter costs over the life of the air conditioning systems. Prices for permanent air filters often exceed $100 each.

Permanent Mesh Filters - These come in 1" and 2" versions and are made from different types of materials and consequently have a wide variety of effectiveness. Some of the older types such as aluminum mesh are no more effective than good fiberglass filters. These require the application of a filter adhesive spray after cleaning (washing) and drying. The filter adhesive should be available where you buy the filter.
Electrostatic Filters - These cleanable filters also come in 1" and 2" versions. Most filters advertised as allergy free are of this type. There are many different designs, and performance can vary. Some manufacturers claim very high efficiencies. Electrostatic filter makers claim that the air movement through the filter creates a static charge that collects very tiny particles of dust. Electrostatic filters require frequent and thorough cleaning and may consume more blower power.

Preventive Maintenance

Regular maintenance by a qualified technician is very important in ensuring a long efficient life of your air conditioning system. It is recommended that you have your system serviced before each heating and cooling season to avoid service failure when you need the conditioned air most. The components of an AC system tune up will vary among the many service companies. In general, the service will include:
1. Check for proper refrigerant (freon) levels. A low level indicates a leak, to be found and repaired before adding more freon.
2. Check all electrical components and controls.
3. Clean evaporator and condenser coils, as needed.
4. Oil motors as needed.
5. Calibrate thermostat.
6. Check Condenser.
7. Check filters.

With a regular maintenance program and routine changing of the system's air filter your air conditioning system will provide you with years of service and operate at an efficient level.