Updated: Jan 24, 2020
The air conditioning unit is a very important system/component of the home. Preventive maintenance can help you make sure your unit stays operating efficiently, pro-long the lifespan of the appliance, and save you the costly repair of replacing the unit. Here are just a few quick tips on what to look for when inspecting your A/C unit to see if it is operating efficiently and in good condition.
First things first, the age of the unit. Typical life expectancy of an A/C unit or also known as the condenser unit is around 15-20 years with proper maintenance. It can be difficult sometimes to determine the age of the unit as some do not always clearly state the year of manufacture. It can also be determined by it's serial number though, it depends on the brand of the unit on how the date is written in the unit's serial number. A website I like to go to, to determine the age is www.building-center.org The Building Intelligence Center makes it easier to determine the age of your unit on all different brands.
Here are a few examples of the top brands and determining the age of the appliance:
It is very common for home owners to try to hide the hideous looking eye sore unit to make the home look more appealing. Using fencing, shrubs, or some sort of vegetation to hide it. But your air conditioning unit needs to have proper clearances to operate correctly. On all sides of the unit I recommend having at least 1-1 1/2 foot of clearance and up to 4 feet of clearance above the unit. This helps ensure that the refrigerant gets proper air flow and not harder on the components.
Next look at the copper refrigerant lines coming from the unit to the inside.
The larger line is commonly know as the "suction line" and the smaller copper line is the "liquid line". The larger copper line, or suction line, should be properly insulated. Over time, the pipe insulation can become brittle and peel/flake off or get torn off. The insulation has 2 main jobs: Preventing the line to sweat and dripping water inside the home; and prevent the refrigerant from absorbing excess heat from the outside and causing it not to operate as it should, making your system work a lot harder, inefficiently, and cost your more money. Could also play a part in shortening the life span of your system.
The unit itself should be on a slab of some kind to lift it 3 inches above grade. This will keep it from taking in more rain and keeping it above the elements that could shorten its life span. It should also be level, so it does not put any strain on the system and compressor while it operating.
Next make sure the fins around the condenser unit have not been smashed in or damaged. The condenser unit it supposed to release the heat from the refrigerant, and if the fins are smashed and damaged, it can restrict air flow and prevent proper operation. It can be common to catch it with the weed eater or doing any yard work and damage the unit. Now a days most unit have a better cover than the one pictured above, to better protect the fins.
Take a look down inside the A/C unit as well. Make sure there isn't any excess debris or leaves in the unit itself. Make sure any copper lines are not heavily corroded and the compressor looks like it is in good shape.
You do not want regular Romex (or NM cable) exposed either. This wire is not rated to be used outside because it cannot handle the sun's UV rays and the elements. You can see it is heavily discolored and becoming brittle and the sheathing can easily be damaged, exposing the wires. It should be properly encased in seal tight or conduit to protect the sheathing and wires.
Proper maintenance is crucial if you want to get the most out of your appliance. I recommend servicing your HVAC system annually if not every 6 months around when the seasons change. A system tune up can go a long way. If you are also located here in the #Tuscaloosa area, I would recommend these top local companies for their high quality service: Banks Quarles http://banksquarlesairconditioning.com/air-conditioning-tuscaloosa-al.html
Adams Heating & Cooling https://adamsheatingandcoolinginc.com/
Premier Service Company https://www.premierservicecompany.com/
Jolly Heating & Air Conditioning http://www.jollyheatingandair.com/