As summer draws to a close, temperatures will soon drop, and you'll start to use your air conditioner less. Before the season for using it is completely over, you should check its fins for damage. Air conditioners have many technical components that require the knowledge of a knowledgeable HVAC technician, but the fins aren't difficult to inspect. In some cases, you may even be able to repair them yourself. Here's what to look for and how you can repair them if they're damaged.
Your Air Conditioner Has Fins
All air conditioning units, including central air conditioners and window models, have fins. These are thin pieces of metal, usually made from aluminum, that improve the air conditioner's heat exchange. The aluminum fins increase the surface area of cool metal that the air passes over, allowing the unit to extract heat from the air quickly. These fins are much more effective than a single metal coil would be at cooling down air.
The Fins May Have Been Damaged During Summer
In order to maximize the fins' surface area, all air conditioner fins are thin. While thin fins maximize your air conditioner's ability to cool, they're also susceptible to being damaged. There are two types of damage they might sustain: bending and corrosion.
To see if your air conditioner's fins are bent, you just have to look at them. They're on the outside of the unit, so it's easy to tell whether they're in parallel lines. Any number of accidents, from a stray baseball to a falling branch, may have bent your unit's fins.
To check for rust on your air conditioner's fins, you'll need a flashlight. Shine it on them to see if light passes through any fins. If it does, there are pinhole rust spots on your unit's fins. This type of rust would be a sign that a dog has been marking your air conditioner during the summer.
Both types of damage affect your air conditioner's fins and, therefore, your unit's efficiency. Bends in its fins slow airflow through your air conditioner, reducing how much air it's able to cool. Pinhole rust spots reduce the fins' surface area, thus decreasing the heat exchange.
You Can Straighten Bent Fins
Bent fins are easy to fix, and you can repair them yourself. All you need is an air conditioner comb, which you'll find at your local hardware store. Combs come in different sizes, which are determined by the number of fins per inch. To find out what size comb, you can either look up your unit's fins-per-inch in your owner's manual or measure how many fins are in one inch.
If you have multiple air conditioning units, such as one central air conditioning unit and a window model, SFGate recommends purchasing an adjustable comb. Even if it costs slightly more, an adjustable comb can be calibrated to match any air conditioner's fins-per-inch.
Once you have a properly sized comb, simply run it through your air conditioner's fins. Aluminum is a soft metal and will bend back into its original shape easily. Continue combing the fins until they're straight.
You Should Have Rusted Fins Professionally Repaired
Rusted fins are more difficult to repair and require the knowledge of an HVAC technician. If you have pinhole rust spots on the fins, its possible that there's also rust deeper in your unit. An air conditioning repair technician can take off your unit's fins and check for additional rust. They'll be able to replace any rusted parts, including the fins.
Although you might soon use your air conditioner less, don't forget to take care of it before the warmer temperatures are gone. Take a few moments to inspect its fins. If they're bent, straighten them. If they're rusted, call an air conditioning repair company to inspect your unit more closely. Taking a few minutes to look at your air conditioner will ensure that it's ready for next year when the warm weather returns.