The Air That I Breathe
Air conditioners are magical things. It’s a billion degrees and sweatier than a Turkish bath outside and you’re sitting in temperature-and humidity-controlled splendour, cool as a crisp cucumber. But beware: your decadent lifestyle is in danger if you don’t take care of that magic air-blowing box on the wall, so follow these tips to keep everything running smoothly.
Care for your air filter
As the name suggests, the air filter is the thing that takes the dust, particulate matter and other unhealthy stuff out of the outside world’s air on its way into your pure, hermetically sealed den of hygiene and cleanliness. For this reason, it’s pretty important. “You should clean your air filter every two to six months, depending on how dusty your environment is,” says Chad Hepburn of Advanced Climate Solutions, who also advises that the filter be changed every five years, depending on actual usage.
As for how to clean it, Craig Smith of Dew Point Air Conditioning says warm water is the thing to use. “If the filter has not been cleaned for a long period of time a mild detergent is sometimes used,” adds Smith.
That filter doesn’t last forever, either. “Most split-type units have a built-in filter made from nylon, which if broken or torn will need to be replaced,” says Smith. “Most ducted units have a filter media material that is washable, but after a few washes it will need to be replaced as it tends to shrink and its ability to catch dust particles decreases. This allows dust to enter the fan and coil compartment, which will eventually block the system.”
That’s obviously not good. Smith advises that if dust enters the system the unit will need to be stripped to allow for access to the fans and coil for cleaning. “This can be costly as it is labour-intensive to strip units,” says Smith, “so it’s best to keep the filters clean and replace when needed.”
Keep track of maintenance
It’s not just the filter that requires your attention, however. Smith says the condenser, which sits outside, also needs cleaning. “Depending on the outdoor environment and location this will need one to two cleans per annum for domestic use,” says Smith.
Given their heavier workload, commercial systems require more frequent maintenance. “It all depends on the environment,” says Smith. “For example, in textile and printing premises the units will need monthly servicing; for office use the units will need quarterly servicing.”
Smith advises looking out for the following warning signs to know if something is amiss with your unit: “If you notice an increase in the noise of the unit, if the cooling efficiency decreases, or if you get a smell coming from the unit.”
The cost of cool
Electricity ain’t getting cheaper, so reducing usage is on everyone’s mind. How do you keep cool without running up a huge bill?
“Ensure your unit is used in extreme temperatures only; use a fan if the home or office is stuffy,” advises Hepburn. “Utilise the timers provided to automate your use and don’t leave it running.”
Smith points out that maintenance is also key in this regard. “A poorly maintained unit will take a longer period of time to cool an occupied area; therefore it will draw more power, increasing your electricity bill.”
Smith also advises setting the unit two or three degrees warmer than you usually would as this can make a huge difference to your bill. “If you don’t have ceiling insulation in the loft it is advised to install it in the air-conditioned rooms,” he adds. “This will separate the hot ceiling from the air-conditioned space, reducing the heat gains.”
Keep it clean!
Operating a dirty air conditioner can be a real health hazard, says Bertha Mutasa of the Aircon Company. “Every time you turn your dirty air conditioner unit on, it’s spreading mould spores and bacteria into the air and exposing you to potential, serious health issues,” says Mutasa. “Inhaling air contaminated with mould can inflame the airways that can cause nasal congestion, wheezing and chest tightness. Moreover, prolonged exposure to contaminated air can reduce lung function and cause health problems like asthma.”