8 Air Conditioner Maintenance Tips That’ll Save You Money and Keep You Cool

Ben Kissam
Written by Ben Kissam
Updated July 13, 2021
Air conditioner unit outside house
fstop123/ iStock / Getty Images Plus via Getty Images

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Most air conditioner problems come from a lack of maintenance, and repairing or replacing the AC can dig deep into your wallet. It costs an average of $5,230 to install a new central air unit, meaning regular air conditioner maintenance can literally save you thousands. 

From checking on your interior and exterior components to sealing off air leaks, here are eight simple air conditioner maintenance tips you can use to save money and extend the life of your AC. But take note: Some of these tips are free or low-cost, while others may require a local HVAC professional.

1. Have Your AC Unit Serviced Annually

Getting your AC unit serviced annually can help extend its life and boost its efficiency, which will save you money on air conditioning costs.

An air conditioner tuneup costs between $70 and $150. Sometimes, that even includes two visits: one before winter and again during summer. A local AC technician will clean out debris from the fan, clean your coils, and check the internal components (blower, motor) to see if anything needs repairs.

If you’re doing your own air conditioner maintenance, be sure to power down your unit before servicing.

2. Remove Debris From the Fan

Dirt, dust, and other debris can decrease performance and clog up your air conditioner, preventing steady airflow through your home. It’s not uncommon to find grass, leaves, and other foreign objects in an outside unit, either. Removing these can help keep your home cooler and prolong the life of your AC.

Periodically (once every three to six months) use a hose, brush, or even paper towels to remove buildup on your AC unit’s fan. (Again, make sure it’s turned off first.)

3. Change the Air Filters Regularly

Air filters protect your family from breathing in dust and other particles. They also protect the interior of your air conditioner, which could become damaged from buildup. Replacing your air filters once every season (at least) is one of the important regular air conditioner services you should definitely stay on top of. 

Air filters cost between $30 and $150. If this price seems steep, remember that clean air running through your unit could save you thousands on repairs later.

4. Clean Your Air Conditioner’s Coils

Your AC’s evaporator coils are where heat is absorbed. When the coils get dirty, they don’t work as well, which is why your coils are one of the first places you should troubleshoot when your air conditioner isn’t working. Dirty coils also have to work harder, which could mean you need to replace your unit sooner than you should have to.

Evaporator coils are located inside your air conditioner. Use a soft brush with some no-rinse coil cleaner to remove grit and grime.

5. Fix Your Air Conditioner’s Fins

Bent or crooked air conditioners can also cause efficiency problems for your AC unit. When the fins on the back of your air conditioner are bent, it’s easier for dirt to compromise your internal parts. 

You can buy a fin comb (under $10) or just use a butter knife from your kitchen to straighten the crooked fins.

Air conditioner wall unit
Aliaksandr Litviniuk/ iStock via Getty Images

6. Maintain a Consistent Temperature

Maintaining your air conditioner isn’t only about keeping hardware clean and efficient—how you cool your home can also prolong the life of your unit. This is something you should always consider before buying a central air conditioning unit

Namely, it’s important to not change the temperature frequently. It’s actually more energy efficient to run your unit longer at a steady temperature than to turn it off and on (or from 71 to 68 degrees Fahrenheit and back again). This prevents your AC from having to work extra hard to cool your home.

7. Remove Air Leaks From Your Home

You can also spare your air conditioner from working overtime by removing air leaks in your home.

Areas you should check for drafts include:

  • Door frames

  • Windows

  • Outlets

  • Baseboards

  • Entry to appliances

  • Attic doors or hatches

  • Fireplaces

Sealing off or reinforcing old windows or obvious spots where hot air comes inside (or cool air escapes) allows your unit to do more with less energy, which will prolong its life and save you money.

8. Level Your AC Unit

Over time, an outside air conditioner’s concrete pads may sink into the ground, which could strain the electrical lines.

Signs that air conditioner maintenance is needed in this area include:

  • Crooked or tilted appearance

  • Water pooling around the base of your air conditioner

To fix this, wedge a long board under one side of the unit, then pack it with sand. If needed, repeat on the other side to help your air conditioner sit higher off the ground.

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