Your home’s AC is your friend. Be nice to it

Obstructed condensers, filthy filters will wear it down, experts say

There's never a good time for your home's air conditioner to go out, but this summer could be the worst. Some simple maintenance can help keep it humming and cooling.

SAN ANTONIO – As the temperature soars, so does Darius McKinnis’ popularity. He’s in the HVAC business.

McKinnis and the AC specialists at Shafer Services are busy fielding calls for help.

“The condenser’s not working,” is a common one, McKinnis said.

Not cool.

To reduce the chances of an AC emergency, McKinnis says maintenance is everything. He recommends homeowners get their HVAC systems checked out by a professional at least once a year. But, homeowners can provide a little TLC, too.

Start with that condenser. It should be free of overgrown brush, leaves, and dirt because it needs space to do its job.

McKinnis recommends hosing down the outside unit once or twice a year.

“We recommend the system be off when you do it,” he said. “Just take the water hose and give it a good rinse all around.”

A big culprit for AC trouble is filthy filters.

“If a filter is dirty and it’s in there, you might as well have no filter,” McKinnis said. “You’re basically suffocating your system by not changing the filter.”

You can help your AC by lighting its load. That means pulling blinds and shades down to keep excessive heat out. Use ceiling and floor fans to cool people, so you can raise the thermostat. And, when you leave the house, raise the thermostat’s setting a few degrees, but don’t turn it off, experts recommend. Turning it off means it will have to work extra hard to cool again.

With the sun beating down on your roof, the attic can turn into an oven. McKinnis says be sure you have adequate insulation.

“Without insulation, you’re causing the unit to work harder, which is going to shorten the life of your unit,” he said.


About the Authors:

As a consumer reporter, Marilyn is all about helping people stay safe and save a buck. Since coming to KSAT in 1985, she’s covered everything from crime to politics, winning awards for her coverage of the Mexican Mafia, Oklahoma tornadoes, children’s transplants, an investigation into voting irregularities and even a hit-and-run Santa Claus.

William Caldera has been at KSAT since 2003. He covers a wide range of stories including breaking news, weather, general assignments and sports.