Is your air conditioner more than 10 years old? You may be thinking of replacing it soon, but as buying a new air conditioner can be a costly endeavor, it's worth your while to do what you can to extend the life of the one you have. Here are four ways to take better care of your aging air conditioner, reducing its risk of suddenly dying on you.
Upgrade to a better filter.
If you're still using a low-end cotton or fiberglass air filter, this is a good time to upgrade to a better one. A HEPA filter, for instance, will do a better job of trapping the smaller particles that a cheap fiberglass filter will let through. Not only does this keep your air cleaner, but it's better for your AC unit. The more dirt that ends up deposited on your AC unit, the harder it will have to work to cool your home -- and the more wear and tear it will experience.
Regardless of the type of filter you use, remember to change it (or if you buy a reusable one, clean it) every 4–8 weeks during cooling season.
Give it room to breathe.
Are there bushes around your AC unit? Perhaps weeds are growing up near it. This plant growth can cause a number of problems. First off, it traps moisture near your AC unit, causing it to corrode and rust prematurely. Second, it reduces the airflow to the unit. Your AC has to then work harder to pull air in, which strains the motor and can lead to burnouts.
Use it judiciously.
The less you use your air conditioner, the longer it will last. This does not mean that you should sit there melting away on a 90-degree day. There are a few ways to use your air conditioner less while still staying cool.
Avoid cooking in the home on warm days. The heat released from the oven or stove will force your AC to work overtime.
Use your programmable thermostat. Set the temperature to go up a few degrees when you're not at home.
Keep your curtains closed on hot days. Preventing the sun from shining in will keep your home cooler.
In addition to following the tips above, you should schedule an annual maintenance appointment with your HVAC contractor. They'll tune everything up and make sure minor issues are dealt with before they cause complete AC failure.