5 Easy Air Conditioner Maintenance Tips

American Standard air conditioner outside at home
Regular air conditioner maintenance is a must to ensure the system operates efficiently and has a long life.

Few household chores pay off more than scheduling regular air conditioner maintenance.

A well-maintained air conditioning unit runs efficiently, uses less energy and costs less to run. Best of all? A properly serviced system has fewer breakdowns and a longer lifespan.


Married couple looks at their American Standard air conditioner and wonders whether it's time to maintain their system
Regularly check the condition of your A/C’s outdoor unit. Spotting problems now can prevent headaches later.

What You Should Know About Air Conditioner Maintenance

As a homeowner, you can tackle some routine air conditioner maintenance tasks. But you should leave technical assessments and repairs to properly trained, licensed professionals.

If you’re uncomfortable with performing any of the items on the list below, never hesitate to call a professional.

If you do handle some of the maintenance, always observe safety precautions. And, before you perform any work on your outdoor unit, shut down the power at your electrical box.

And now, for the tips!


Man sets American Standard AccuLink thermostat
Your outdated thermostat could be costing you money. A smart thermostat could save you $200 per year on energy use.

1. Examine the Thermostat

This may be the easiest task for air conditioner maintenance. Just check your thermostat to make sure it works properly and keeps your home at the right temperature.

If you have an older, mechanical thermostat, consider upgrading to a smart, programmable model like American Standard HVAC’s Gold 824 smart thermostat.

A smart thermostat allows you to set the temperature higher when no one is home; it doesn’t turn the air conditioner off, just up. And it can cool the house down about 30 minutes before people arrive home for the evening.

By doing this, you’ll always have a comfortable home waiting for you. And you’ll save energy and money by not having your air conditioner running when no one is there.

Want to really maximize savings? Get a smart thermostat that monitors and reports your energy use. Then set daily schedules for cooling your home, test the results, and pocket the savings!


Danny Lipford displays air filters at Chelsea Lipford Wolf's home
Replace your AC filter with high-quality carbon filters, like the pleated one on the left — avoid fiberglass, pictured at right.

2. Clean or Replace Air Filters

Replacing your air conditioner’s filter (or cleaning it if you have a reusable filter) is one of the most important air conditioner maintenance chores. Do it every month during high-use seasons (like summer and winter) and once during the fall and spring.

You can find the air filter:

  • Behind the return air grille on a wall or ceiling in a central room of the house.
  • Inside the blower compartment of the air handler or furnace.
  • In a slot on the side, bottom or top of your furnace.

When the filter becomes full of dust, dirt and allergen particles, airflow decreases. This makes your system work harder than it should. Air flowing through your system may also become dirtier and dustier, impacting your indoor air quality and triggering allergy and asthma symptoms for those living in the home.

Here’s the solution: Install a high-quality air filter. Inexpensive fiberglass air filters won’t capture smaller particles like pollen, bacteria, and viruses and must be changed every 30 days.

But a pleated filter, depending upon its MERV rating, can capture those things and more. MERV stands for Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value. Why does the MERV rating matter? The higher the MERV rating, the more airborne pollutants the filter will capture.

Residential filters range from 1 MERV, such as what might be found in a window unit air conditioner, to 12 MERV, which is considered superior for residential use.

If you have family members with allergy and asthma problems; own pets; live in a dusty region; or have other similar indoor air quality challenges, consider upgrading to a filtration system that does more.

For example, American Standard’s AccuClean Whole-Home Air Filtration System removes up to 99.98% of these airborne pollutants and contains a reusable filter.

Installing or cleaning an air conditioner filter couldn’t be easier, and any homeowner can do it. Watch How to Change the Air Filter in Your Home for more information.


American Standard air conditioner surrounded by bushes that needs to be cleaned
Remove branches or debris from your AC’s outdoor unit to keep the system running efficiently.

3. Clean the Outside Unit

Over time, leaves, dirt and grass clippings build up outside the air conditioner unit; this decreases the system’s capacity and reduces airflow. It’s also why maintenance for the outside unit couldn’t be more important.

First, shut off power to the unit. You can do that at the service disconnect on your outdoor unit or at your home’s main breaker panel.

Then, use a garden hose to gently wash out the debris. Start at the top, with the hose at about a 45-degree angle, and work your way down.

Do not use a power washer — otherwise, you could damage the unit. And take care not to bend or damage the delicate fins on the coil.

Aluminum cooling fins on an air conditioner compressor must be straight for the unit to cool efficiently. If yours aren’t, here’s how to repair bent air conditioner compressor fins — it’s a Simple Solution to a common problem!

While you’re cleaning and making minor repairs on the outdoor unit, go ahead and trim any shrubs or other plants around your air conditioner. This will prevent them from impeding airflow to and from the unit.


4. Check Wiring and Components

Your air conditioner’s internal connections are crucial to its operation. What you don’t know about them could hurt your pocketbook from inefficient cooling, so it’s important to check the outdoor unit’s wiring at least once a year.

Old wiring inside AC unit.
Look ‘under the hood’ of your A/C unit.

With the condenser unit’s power turned off, remove its access panel and look for signs of overheating. For instance, this could include melted insulation on wires and blackened or burned-looking wires.

Also, go ahead and check any electrical connections to make sure they are tight. If you own an electrical test meter, you can check the unit’s capacitors.

If you notice any problems and don’t feel comfortable correcting them yourself, call a local heating and air conditioning expert to do the work.

Of course, if you’re just not comfortable checking these parts yourself, that’s OK! Ask your local HVAC professional to include this in your bi-annual checkup.


American Standard condenser unit's fan, seen from above
Your AC’s fan blades may need replacing for optimal performance.

5. Check the Condenser Unit’s Fan

Your air conditioner can’t cool your home very well if the condenser unit’s fan blades are in poor shape. That’s why it’s important to know their condition.

To do this, turn the power off to your air conditioner unit and check the fan mounted on top of the outside condenser unit to make sure it’s still in good shape.

Replace the fan blades if there are any cracks or chips visible in one or more of the blades. You can purchase fan blades online from Amazon and air conditioner supply websites.

But first, make sure the blades fit your condenser unit. Most online stores have a list of compatible systems or will prompt you to type in the condenser’s model number to make sure it’s a match.

Also, if you have an older air conditioner unit, you may need to oil the fan motor bearings regularly.

Of course, if you’re not comfortable with this type of maintenance, just ask your local HVAC professional to include this in your bi-annual checkup.


American Standard representative visits with a married couple at their home
Not comfortable performing air conditioner maintenance? No problem. Call a pro! They’ll be happy to help.

Call for Professional A/C Maintenance

Proper air conditioner maintenance can keep you comfortable during the hottest days of summer. In addition, it can save you energy and money.

Getting professional air conditioner tune-ups twice a year (once for heating and once for cooling) couldn’t be more important. Your furnace should be checked just before its winter use, and your air conditioner should be checked just before the hot summer months.

Your tune-up professional will lubricate and inspect all system parts for functionality. They’ll replace filters, clean out drain holes, check your refrigerant levels, and so forth.

These routine check-ups are important to make sure your air conditioner is running at optimal performance.

Most important? Regular check-ups will ensure your air conditioner lasts for as many years as possible.

However, if you find yourself in need of an upgrade, consider a system that will not only meet your family’s comfort needs, but also offers greater peace of mind with energy usage and billing expenses.

The American Standard HVAC’s AccuComfort Variable Speed cooling system is a great option. It’s a highly efficient air conditioner that will provide maximum comfort and can help lower operating costs and energy usage.

Learn more about air conditioners with HVAC basics, presented by American Standard HVAC.


Keep Your Cool with Today's Homeowner!It’s Keep Your Cool Week, sponsored by American Standard HVAC!
Give your air conditioner some TLC — click for all the money-saving advice you need to stay cool and comfortable this summer.

Further Information

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39 COMMENTS

  1. Does your AC Unit make slight humming noises? Your condenser unit has a run relay in it that may be causing your slight hum noise. The low voltage control transformer in the furnace also powers the Run relay in the condenser. Try turning off the furnace power either by a local switch by the furnace or the breaker. Then check the hum. If it is gone you may have a bad thermostat. It could be causing some AC voltage leaking thru it causing it to hum but not enough voltage to pull in the relay turning on the condenser. You can also try disconnecting the yellow wire in the thermostat which is the wire going to the condenser and see if it goes away. If not turn the breaker off or pull the disconnect to the condenser and see if it goes away. If it does you will probably need a service tech to investigate further. But my guess is its probably on the thermostat side.

  2. Great post! These are some really easy things to check. At this point in the year, you should be able to look back on the summer’s cooling bill. As an AC unit wears and ages, it begins to run less efficiently. When it runs less efficiently, your bill goes up. Any of these tips may fix a minor problem, or help maximize the life of your unit.

  3. I absolutely agree that it is very important to clean or replace your air conditioner’s filter regularly, as the article explains. An air conditioner’s filter is a very large factor in its performance, so it needs to be in good condition. Fortunately, making sure the filter is in good condition is one of the easiest things that you can do when it comes to maintaining your air conditioner.

  4. I really liked that you mentioned how important it is to regularly clean and replace your air filter. My husband cleans our air filter every few months to make sure that the air coming into our house is clean. Like you said, air filters get dirty quickly, and can cause your air conditioning unit to work harder than it needs to. Just keeping it clean can save a lot of trouble in the future! Great post, thank you for your tips!

  5. With winter almost over I have been looking into my AC and getting ready for summer. I will check the air filter and wiring. I never thought about checking the wiring after winter. Thanks for the advice!

  6. Change the filter on the inside unit at least every 30 days. The air will move a lot easier through your system, increase efficiency, and decrease the risk of freeze up.

  7. Lately my AC hasn’t been doing so hot. I didn’t know that there were steps you could take to make it last longer! I’ll make sure that I get the filter cleaned out more often. Thanks for the information!

  8. Checking the wiring is one of the best things that you can do when it comes to your air conditioning unit. Wired can get frayed or severed for a variety of reasons so making sure that they are intact and functioning can save you money and time. Getting your unit serviced at least once a year before you need will ensure that your system is ready for the hot summer months.

  9. I agree with AC Tip #5. Many people taking this for granted. If the outside unit is untidy and full of grass or leaves this also causes problem with your AC unit. For a good ac maintenance you have to clean the outside unit and maintain the free open air surrounding.

  10. Thanks for the tips. I have an older home, and have had some issues keeping it cool this summer. I cleaned out the coils and replaced the filters, but it still is not working well. I think it could be my thermostat. It is old, and I had never thought it could be malfunctioning. I think I will look into getting a new one.

  11. Great tips you have here! I always advise my customers to do a bit of servicing and maintenance on their own. It will be better in the long run in terms of prolonging the longevity of their air conditioning systems.

  12. Wired can get frayed or severed for a variety of reasons so making sure that they are intact and functioning can save you money and time. Getting your unit serviced at least once a year before you need will ensure that your system is ready for the hot summer month

  13. In my years of experience in the field of hvac repair, I have encountered numerous cases where the ac unit doesn’t cool properly due to overgrown leaves and grass on the outside unit. I suggest everyone to keep a check on the unit and keep it clean.

  14. Yes, it is important to maintain your Air conditioner so that they can last long for years.The Tips you have mentioned in the article are incredible and helpful for the users.Thanks for sharing this informative post.

  15. Always hire a professional for repairing and maintaining the ac as they have experience in this field and they know how to tackle the situation and also they knows what is the point that needs to change or repair.

  16. I wanted to thank you for these maintenance tips for an air conditioner. I actually didn’t know that a contactor switch should be replaced if you see excessive pitting. it seems important to know what this pitting looks like so you can replace it as soon as you realize there is a problem.

  17. This is some really good information about AC repair. I liked what you said about how you should think about clean out the outdoor unit. I didn’t realize that could create problems if the outdoor unit gets dirty.

  18. I liked that you pointed out that I should give my AC a good clean if I am having issues with it. Personally, I can’t sleep unless my room is cold. So, I should probably get a professional to repair my AC if I am having major issues with it this spring and summer.

  19. Excellent information, homeowners forget that the air conditioner goes through the HVAC air filter. Thanks for sharing!

  20. Its an excellent guide on how to do a proper maintenance for your air conditioning unit. I would suggest for using your ac with care and cleaning it on monthly basis. You can clean their filters, outer unit, dirt, mud or leaves to enhance its performance and life. You can also use modern technology enabled Ac units for auto cooling and energy efficient features.

  21. Fantastic post. Thanks for sharing such information. I liked that you pointed out that I should give my AC a good clean if I am having issues with it.

  22. I appreciated that you mentioned that the airflow will decrease as the AC unit’s filter is blocked by dirt and dust. My husband and I recently moved to a new area and we would like to find a professional that can help us figure out our AC unit, and see if it is broken or we need a new one. I think that looking online for tips has helped us make the decision to finally talk to an expert about this problem.

  23. Mind blown, you guys. I never even knew that the fan mounted on the top of the outside condenser unit must be checked. No wonder my air conditioner is not performing well, AND it’s also leaking. I’ve got a lot of homework to do! Okay, pun intended.

  24. My air conditioner has been producing a weird noise, and it’s also leaking. You could have hit me over with a feather when you said that replacing the AC’s filter should be done MONTHLY during the high-use season. I don’t even change it YEARLY! 😀 Guess that will have to change.

  25. Great tips! My air conditioner hasn’t been getting enough breaks lately because of the AWFUL summer heat. I think a major maintenance job would be needed for it once the colder months kick in to make sure that there are no major damages.

  26. Thanks for your excellent tips! I have a question. The 14 seer 2 1/2 ton Carrier AC and evaporation coil in my condo is 14 years old since new. An AC company is telling me that it is leaking and I should replace it at a cost of $4580. How long should an AC unit like that last? Does this seem like reasonable advice? Thanks very much.

    • Hi, Frank,
      An air conditioner does not last forever. In fact, the system’s lifespan is between 14 and 18 years, so your system is within that window!
      While you can bandage the situation — make simple fixes until the system effectively dies — we’ve seen expenses for temporary fixes incrementally add up to the point where they’re not cost-effective.
      Whether you purchase a new system is up to you, but it sounds like your current system is near its end of service.
      Good luck with your decision!

  27. Hiring Air conditioner experts for the maintenance and repair of your AC unit can save you from several issues. They not only ensure safe and secure maintenance but also protect it from further damage. People with no AC maintenance experience can burn your money and damage ac badly.

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