AHRI offers springtime maintenance tips

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Arlington, VA – The Air-Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute (AHRI) reminded homeowners that the spring season is the ideal time to prepare cooling equipment for the hot summer months and ensure it operates at its highest efficiency.

“Heating and cooling is the single biggest energy consumer in a home, and accounts for about 65 percent of all the energy used by homeowners,” said Stephen Yurek, AHRI President and CEO. “That’s why taking steps to ensure your units are running as efficiently as possible can help offset cooling costs this summer.”

AHRI offers homeowners the following tips to keep their central air conditioning and heat pump units running efficiently:

• Check the air filter and change it if it’s dirty, or according to the manufacturer’s recommendation, to keep dust from collecting on the evaporator coil fins. Keeping your filter clean can cut energy consumption 5- to 15-percent. Turn off the power to the air handler before pulling the filter out so that the fan doesn’t come on and blow dust throughout your home. Be sure to position the new filter according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
• Clear away leaves, grass, weeds, plants, and other debris that block airflow through the outdoor condensing unit, which is the large metal box in your yard next to your home. Anything that collects on the unit’s fins will block airflow and reduce its efficiency. Grass clippings thrown by the lawn mower are particularly common offenders.
• Occasionally clean the outdoor condensing unit by spraying it with a water hose.
• Check to make sure air vents inside your home are not obstructed by furniture. Air in your home needs to circulate easily through the vents. Your air conditioner works less when air can circulate freely.

AHRI also suggests that homeowners hire a professional to service their air conditioner. A well-trained technician will find and fix problems in the system. Look for a technician that is certified by North American Technician Excellence (NATE). You can find a NATE-certified technician online at www.natex.org. Be sure to insist that the technician:

• Check for the correct amount of refrigerant and test for refrigerant leaks.
• Capture any refrigerant that must be evacuated from the system.
• Check for and seal duct leakage in central systems.
• Measure air flow through the evaporator coil.
• Check the accuracy of the thermostat.
• Verify the correct electric control sequence and make sure that the heating system and cooling system cannot operate simultaneously.
• Inspect electric terminals, clean and tighten connections, and apply a non-conductive coating if necessary.
• Check belts and oil motors for tightness and wear.

Finally, AHRI recommends that homeowners establish a service agreement with a reputable contractor that will take care of regular spring and fall maintenance to ensure maximum efficiency and catch problems early, before they can become bigger and more expensive. A service agreement also ensures that the homeowner has priority during the hottest and coldest months, when problems are most likely to emerge.

“With proper maintenance, central air conditioning and heat pump units should last at least 12 to 15 years,” said Yurek. “Homeowners need to regularly service their heating and cooling equipment to keep them running smoothly. Spring is a great time to think about getting service before hot weather arrives and the rush for maintenance is in full swing,” he added.

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