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3 Ways to Keep Your Air Conditioner Working Better

In the glaring heat of the sun, where each individual flare of light ends its journey of millions of miles by crashing into the dark, absorbing asphalt of our city streets, the one line of defense that often stands between you and guzzling gallons of water throughout each day is the dedicated service of your air conditioner.

As we begin to move into the summer months, as the days grow longer and the air begins to crackle with heat and energy, it becomes ever more important to ensure that our air conditioners are in prime condition to stand their ground against the coming challenges.

Just like with any living being, however, air conditioners cannot take on battle after battle without time and treatment to heal their wounds. They, like all appliances, require consistent care and attentiveness to give back all that they are able to, and in this article, we are going to go over three ways that you can do just that without needing to call a professional for assistance

Let’s get started, shall we?

1: Regularly Replace the Filter

I believe it goes without saying that air conditioning filters need to regularly be changed. Unsurprisingly, a part whose function is to catch and hold onto unsavory bits of debris floating about will inevitably grow quite dirty, and if it doesn’t, then it is not doing its job properly. Fortunately, the replacement of an AC filter is a relatively simple task, so long as one has a replacement filter lying around. If you don’t, then be aware of a couple things before trekking out to buy one:

        Know Your Filter: Always be aware of what size filter your air conditioner uses before buying a replacement. One wouldn’t want to find themselves with a square object to insert into a circular hole, after all. If you are not certain of your filter’s dimensions, you can always measure it manually. You could also look into your air conditioner’s brand online and locate the proper size for your unit via the manufacturer’s website.

        Know Your Air Conditioner: It would be quite difficult to change out a filter that you don’t even know the location of, wouldn’t it? Your air filter is likely to be housed behind a grate near your thermostat, but can also be found behind much larger than normal grates located on the ceiling or wall (called “return vents”)

 To change the filter of your air conditioner, follow these simple steps:

Step 1: Turn off the power to the unit

       This is always the first step towards any action that involves the inner workings of an AC unit.

       Switch off the power to your AC unit via either the circuit breaker, or by simply unplugging the outdoor unit.

Step 2: Unscrew the grate and open it

       The air filter should be located directly behind the face grate. If it’s covered in dust and debris, then it should be properly disposed of after removal.

Step 3: Replace the filter

       Be sure to insert it facing the same direction as the one you just removed.

       Follow any directions located on the packaging of the new filter as well.

Step 4: Close and secure the grate

       Always keep track of any screws that are removed during the filter replacement process.

A replacement filter for an air conditioner.
A replacement filter for an air conditioner.

2: Make Sure the Circuit Breaker Remains Functional

Although your house’s circuit breaker may only be tangentially connected to your air conditioner, the connection that is present remains no less essential for the functionality of the appliance itself, and if the circuit breaker is off, or worse, failing, then the vital electricity that is required on a fundamental level for your AC to function will be cut off at the source, and the air conditioner will be left unable to operate. With this in mind, there is little harm in checking if malfunctions originate at the source, if only briefly.

 To check your circuit breaker:

Step 1: Find the circuit breaker

       While locations can vary by individual instance, circuit breakers are usually located in what can be considered as “low-traffic” areas, such as basements, garages, and utility closets.

       Wherever the location, circuit breakers usually take the form of large, light gray rectangular boxes on walls.

Step 2: Open the circuit breaker

       This should be relatively simple, as circuit breakers are meant to be opened up and checked on periodically.

Step 3: Check the switches

       If the switch providing power to your air conditioning is flipped so that the handles are facing towards the outside of the panel, then it is in the “off” position, and should be turned on as needed.

In the event of a circuit breaker trip, then more than simply turning a few switches off and on is required. In these instances, the entire circuit breaker will need to be reset.

To reset a circuit breaker:

Step 1: Find the circuit breaker

Step 2: Open the circuit breaker

Step 3: Locate the tripped circuit

      The handle of a tripped circuit will be neither in the “off” position nor the “on” position, but rather in the middle position, and should therefore be relatively simple to find.

A circuit breaker with the cover panel closed.
A circuit breaker with the cover panel closed.

Step 4: Turn off all devices on the circuit

      Disconnect, unplug, or otherwise turn off all appliances connected to the tripped circuit breaker. The ones connected to functional circuits should be fine to leave as-is.

Step 5: Turn the tripped breaker handles off

      The “off” position is usually facing towards the outside of the circuit breaker.

Step 6: Turn the tripped breaker handles on

      The handles should slide firmly in place with an audible click.

Step 7: Check the circuit

      You can do this by turning a device connected to the circuit on and off. If it appears functional, then you should be good to go. If not, then it may be time to either try again, or call a professional for further assistance.

A circuit breaker with the cover panel opened.

3: Keep the Condenser Coils Clean

Ever wonder how your air conditioner maintains its cooling functionality once it has begun to offer you the refreshing services it is known for? The answer lies deep within the confines of the appliance itself, in a hugely important piece of technology known as the condenser coil. This odd little arrangement of tubes and metal plays an absolutely vital role in any air conditioner’s ability to regulate the temperatures of both itself and the air it exudes, preventing overheating. Unfortunately, like any complex piece of equipment, condenser coils are prone to being worn down over time. Never fear, however, for there are steps you can take to mitigate the slow decline of this vital bit of machinery through regularly cleaning your AC’s condenser coils, and all without hiring any sort of technician.

The process for cleaning condenser coils is as follows:

Step 1: Turn off the power to your AC

       It cannot be stressed enough just how important it is to ensure that the mechanisms of any device aren’t in motion as one interacts with their components.

       Switch off the power to your AC unit via either the circuit breaker, or by simply unplugging the outdoor unit.

Step 2: Remove the outer cover of the condenser

–     Make sure the AC is fully turned off first!

       This may also require removing any screws holding the cover in place.

–     Be sure to keep track of any and all screws and other pieces removed during this procedure.

The exterior of an air conditioner's condenser coils.
The exterior of an AC unit's condenser.

Step 3: Rid the coils of loose dirt and debris

       After you can plainly see the condenser coils, utilize a soft brush and/or compressed air to remove any loose dirt from the machinery.

       Be as gentle as possible while working with such delicate and essential equipment.

Step 4: Apply coil cleaner to the unit

       Using either commercial or homemade condenser coil cleaner, spray down the coils in question with an even coating and let it sit for 5 to 10 minutes.

       Coil cleaner can be made at home through a 50/50 mixture of vinegar and water. For ease of use, we highly recommend putting the mixture in a spray bottle.

Step 5: Rinse the coils and let them dry

       After the remaining dirt and grime has been worn away by the coil cleaner, rinse the coils with water to wash away the cleaner and grime.

       This can most easily be done with a low-pressure hose.

       Be sure to wait for the water to dry completely before reassembling the condenser, and especially before restoring power to the unit.

Step 6: Reassemble the condenser unit

       Once completely dry, all that remains is to reassemble your condenser and restore power to the unit.


Air conditioning systems are complex, made up of a myriad of different parts, all of varying sizes, shapes, and functionalities, and if even a single piece of the whole misbehaves, then the entire machine is thrown out of balance. There’s nothing to be ashamed of in not fully understanding the inner workings of any of your own appliances. If you are particularly doubtful of your abilities regarding the performance of AC care, then fear not, for you can always contact us over at Target Appliance Repair to assist with performing preventative maintenance for your air conditioning unit!

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