Now that the summer heat is bearing down across the U.S., millions of window-mounted air conditioners are getting a real workout. And many owners of said units are wondering why their air conditioners aren’t working properly. In many instances consumers can rectify the problem themselves — if they have the right advice. If you have a window unit in your home, here’s what you need to know.
More than any other household appliance, window-type air-conditioning units are often neglected. This is a pity because they are big energy users and a little maintenance means that homeowners can save money on both utility and repair bills. In fact, with the right information and access to replacement parts, you should be able to fix this appliance yourself, saving the cost of a visit from a repair technician.
All residential window air conditioners have a cooling system consisting of four primary components: a compressor, an evaporator, a temperature sensing device and a condenser. Air conditioner cooling systems are better understood if you think of them more as a device that removes heat and humidity from the air than a device that cools the air.
These are the essential maintenance steps you should take to keep your window-mounted air conditioner operating in tip-top shape while using the least amount of energy:
1. Every month during the months of operation, replace (or clean) the filter located in the front grill. Cost: About $20.
2. The condensing coils on an air conditioner get very dirty, and the dirt tends to accumulate on the inside of the coils, out of sight. Once a year, remove the entire cover of the air conditioner to gain access to the coils, and then clean them by blowing compressed air on them (compressed air dusters work great).
3. Don’t despair if you’ve accidentally bent the aluminum fins on the rear of the unit; RepairClinic.com will send you a handy fin-straightening comb.
Here are answers to the top three dilemmas with window-mounted air conditioners:
Dilemma: A motor is running but no air is blowing.
Air conditioners have two motors: the compressor and the fan motor. It is possible that only one is running. If, after removing the cover of the unit, you discover the fan blade is very stiff and difficult to rotate, the fan motor may need oiling or may need to be replaced.
Dilemma: Water leaks from the front of the unit.
This is normal. All air conditioners should be installed so they tilt slightly backward to allow for proper removal of condensed water that accumulates.
Dilemma: The air smells musty. Air conditioners remove moisture from the air. Most of it is evaporated from the unit. However, it is possible for some water to stagnate in the base of the air conditioner. Also, dirt, lint or dust can collect in the water pan at the base of the unit and absorb water, allowing mold and mildew to grow. All this leads to bad smells. Thoroughly clean the water pan each year when you clean the condenser coils.
Need more help? Check out RepairClinic.com, a very helpful online resource that makes fixing things easy. With millions of parts in stock for just about every make and model of home appliance from every era, they’ll get you what you need quickly —including the exact filter you need for that window air conditioner. You can chat with a repair expert just in case you’re not sure what you need. And when you have that chat, be sure to let them know you read about them in Mary Hunt’s Everyday Cheapskate.