Your air conditioner's duct work is one of the most important components of your entire system, and it deserves regular care to match. Without maintenance, duct work can start leaking air, letting in dust, and losing its insulation, all of which can result in higher energy bills and the potential for more expensive repairs down the line. When you're thinking of your annual air conditioning maintenance, here are three things to remember.
Have Ducts Checked for Leaks
One of the most common ways your air conditioning system starts to operate less efficiently, and drive up your energy bills in the process, is holes or gaps in your duct work. With leaks in your ducts, much of your cool air will disappear before they even get to your vents, causing your air conditioner to have to run longer and work harder to accomplish the same amount of cooling. Some signs of leaks in your ducts can be a rise in your electric bill or rattling or whistling sounds whenever the air conditioner is running.
The best way to detect leaks is to call an HVAC technician to inspect your ducts for you. Technicians will have tools they can use to measure the air pressure coming through your vents and see if they're working as they should. If they aren't, then you've found a problem. This is worth investigating even if you haven't noticed a big spike in bills; even small rises can be a sign of worsening duct issues, and the sooner you can get them investigated, the better.
Keeping your ducts sealed has the added benefit of keeping your home cleaner, because just as cold air can escape your ducts, dust and allergens can find their way into them, which lessens the effect of your air filters. If you've noticed your home seeming dustier than usual, your ducts may not be the first place you look, but are worth checking out.
Inspect Your Insulation
Another way your ducts can work less efficiently is if their insulation is starting to lose its effectiveness. This can happen with age, as insulation starts to form cracks or pull away from the duct work, and it can also happen with any damage, such as biting damage from pests. Weakening insulation won't let air escape, but it may prevent your air from staying as cold as it should be before it gets to your house.
Sometimes the signs of old insulation are obvious, as you'll be able to spot any damage or signs of weakness in material holding your insulation to the ducts. However, it's unlikely you'll be able to directly examine all of your duct work, so this is a good time for a professional to do an inspection. The good news is that insulation can often be replaced, especially if the issue is minor. Keep your eye on your energy bills, but also do occasional checks to make sure that the air coming from your vents feels as cool as it should be. If you notice changes in temperature, it's probably time for some insulation work.
Take Care of Your Vents
As the primary method of moving air in and out of your ducts, your vents, or registers, are worth a regular checkup.
First, change your air filter regularly. During periods of heavy use, you'll probably change filters every three months or so, but check it every few weeks to be sure. If it's very dirty, it's time to replace it. A clean filter allows more passage of air, which is better for your air conditioner and also allows for more output, which in turn makes it more efficient.
Second, make sure your vents are clean. If you've had past issues with leaks in your duct work, they may have accumulated plenty of dust. Not only does this mean that this dust will blow into your home, but it can have a negative effect on the air pressure in your ducts, which can cause extra strain on your air conditioner.
Third, in the interest of keeping air pressure at proper levels inside your ducts, avoid closing off too many vents. This may seem like a good option to save money, but this is not the case. You won't gain any additional efficiency, and like dirty vents and filters, can put extra strain on your air conditioner.