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Annual inspections can keep air colder

By David Luessen

On a hot summer day, a cave can be more comfortable than a house without air conditioning, and with proper maintenance an AC unit can keep a house out of the stone age for decades to come.

Dennis Bergstrom, president and operations manager at Jim & Dude’s Plumbing Heating & Air Conditioning, said professional inspections of a home’s heating, ventilation and air conditioning system will keep it running smoothly.

“It’s highly recommended that the furnace and air conditioner get inspected at least every year between them so the freon pressure is adjusted, all the elements are cleaned, electrical connections secured, filters changed, some parts lubricated, just to keep it running at optimum efficiency and as safely as possible too, because we check different safety devices on it — that’s more for a furnace than an air conditioner, but they work together,” Bergstrom said.

He said the first thing a homeowner should do before turning the AC on for the first time this year — aside from possibly taking off the unit’s cover — is to check the furnace filter, which he recommends to do quarterly. Depending on the house, the filter may need to be changed once or several times a year.

“If you check it at least quarterly, probably the average of it being replaced is once or twice a year,” he said. “We get into situations where we see people haven’t changed it for a few years, and then their furnace runs hot and doesn’t circulate air and it’s extremely inefficient and causes all kinds of problems.”

Other factors in the environment can cause the air conditioner to run hotter, thus shortening the life of the system. Debris from trees like cottonwoods and dust from gravel roads can collect on the fan and coils.

“It doesn’t run as efficiently if it’s dirty,” Bergstrom said. “The outside coil definitely gets dirty each year that definitely should be cleaned annually depending on the surrounding area.”

Covering the AC unit during the winter may help extend its life, but covering it improperly can cause more harm than good. Bergstrom said unless it is located in a hazardous area of the yard, it doesn’t necessarily need to be covered, and the entire unit should not be encased. He said every spring his company responds to call of an air conditioner not working only to find it was improperly covered, often with a tarp and rope.

“Mice seem to love that type of spot, so the appropriate covers are the custom-fitting cover that slides snugly over the unit and then stops a few inches before the bottom so it doesn’t create a pocket in there and there’s still air flow through there so it’s not a mouse haven in there,” Bergstrom said.