Buying a home can be stressful. There are many items that will need to be inspected, from the roof to the sump pump. Among the most important is the central cooling system. There are a few things you can check yourself to get a general idea of whether the air conditioner is working properly and has been regularly maintained.
The outside section of the air conditioner, called the condenser, should be clean and unobstructed. The unit draws air in from the sides to dissipate heat so there should be no tree branches, shrubs or other objects near the unit that could slow the flow of air and reduce efficiency. The fins and condensing coils of the air conditioner should be clean, without excessive dirt or debris that could also reduce performance. Check that the enclosure metal fins are straight and not damaged.
The air conditioner should be sitting on a clean, level surface, preferably a stone or concrete slab. The AC unit may also be suspended from the side of the house. In either case, ensure that the unit is level and that the refrigerant lines are not overly pulled out from the house.
If the AC is not running, turn the thermostat down about five degrees cooler than the indoor temperature. Once the AC is on, check outside again to ensure the fan at the condenser unit is turning. The unit should make a steady sound when operating. If it makes rumbling, rattling or other strange sounds or surges, call Ostrom to have the unit inspected.
Check that the air filter is clean and the right size for the unit. An excessively dirty filter reduces air flow, causing the air conditioner to run more often, wasting energy and reducing the lifespan of the unit. Ask the realtor or homeowner if the AC has received annual maintenance. If the system has not been serviced in years, it could be in need of repairs sooner rather than later.
After the air conditioner has been running for at least 15 minutes, check the temperature of the conditioned air coming out of the register closest to the evaporator inside the home. Blowing air will usually feel cool on the skin, so use a thermometer to accurately measure the temperature and ensure it's actually cold.
In addition to removing heat from the home, an air conditioner also removes moisture from the air. This is the job of the evaporator coil. A drain pan sits below the evaporator coil and empties condensation (water) into a drain line. Ensure that the line is unobstructed and the pan is draining completely.
While the above items cover the basics of a central air conditioner inspection, there's no substitute for a complete professional cooling system inspection performed by a trained technician. Belts, motors and electrical components are just of the few of the items a professional HVAC technician will inspect. So the next time you're moving into a new home, give Ostrom a call. You'll rest easy knowing your air conditioner is operating reliably and efficiently.