HVAC Repairs: Maintaining Your AC

hvac repairs done on home AC wall unit

Regular maintenance on your HVAC system is the best way to avoid costly repairs down the road. Staying on top of routine tune-ups will ensure your unit runs as efficiently as possible, which will help the longevity and efficiency of your AC system. A little TLC goes a long way to keep the cool breeze flowing smoothly through your home.

In this article, we’ll break down all the parts of your AC system that you need to pay attention to, so that you can enjoy uninterrupted comfort all year long.

  • AC filters
  • AC foils
  • Coil fins
  • Window seals
  • Winter preparation

Consistently monitor AC filters

Cleaning or swapping out your AC filters is the most crucial thing you can do to extend the life of your AC system. Luckily, you don’t need to call a professional to perform this simple task!  How often you swap out or clean your AC filters depends on a few factors:

  • The age of your system and how often it is used
  • If you have furry friends living with you
  • Other environmental factors, such as dusty or dry climates
  • If anyone in your household suffers from allergies

The general rule of thumb is to tackle this task once a month or every other month for maximum efficiency. If no one in your home suffers from allergies, you could get away with changing it out every three months. However, changing your air filters after every 250 hours of AC use will help you keep the air in your home clean and put less stress on your AC unit.

Dirty filters tend to restrict airflow, and the efficiency of your system will be affected. On top of that, whenever the airflow of your system is blocked, air can skip the filter and inject dirt straight into the evaporator coil. This can hinder the coil’s ability to absorb heat optimally.

Replacing or cleaning your air filter effectively lowers your AC’s energy consumption by five to 15 percent. Any reduction to an energy bill is a win, and your system will perform so much better by remaining diligent with this task.

Where to find AC filters

The filter is located along the return duct for homes that use central air conditioners. Typically, these filters are found in ceilings, walls, or on the AC unit. If you use separate AC room air conditioners throughout your home, the filter is in the grill facing out.

Some AC systems operate with reusable filters, while others require a new filter to be swapped in when necessary. A handful of different styles are available, ranging from fiberglass to electrostatic, each providing various levels of air filtering ability.

MERV matters

When shopping for a new air filter, it is recommended that you look for a medium-efficiency filter with a MERV rating in the eight to 13 range. A MERV rating measures filter efficiency and stands for Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value.

The average residential HVAC system features a MERV 8 filter, but upgrading to a MERV 13 filter will remove more contaminants and produce better indoor air quality.

While a high MERV rating sounds like the best choice, this is not always the case. These filters usually have a higher price tag, and the increased filtering can result in more airflow resistance, which can strain your system over time.

Check with your local HVAC professional to verify if your system is built to handle a MERV 13 filter before upgrading, as not all systems are compatible.

Check your AC coils

A major component of your AC system is its coils, specifically the evaporator and condenser coils. Together, they build up quite a collection of dirt over time.

The evaporator coil, or indoor coil, is usually described as “cold” because it provides indoor cooling. The condenser coil, or outdoor coil, is the “warm” one since it sends out heat as a fan blows outside air over its surface.

Inspecting these coils at least once a year is a good idea. If you are on top of your filter swap game, then your evaporator coil won’t suffer from as much dust or dirt collection. But even so, eventually, your evaporator coil will become susceptible to dirt. When dirt collects on a coil, it impedes its heat absorption.

Your outdoor condenser coils are also vulnerable to collecting dust and debris, especially if you live in a dusty area or have a bunch of shrubs or trees nearby. It’s important to survey and inspect your outside unit occasionally to ensure that it is clear of buildup.

You can easily peek in and around the unit to see if dirt is building up on the fins. If you can minimize debris and dirt surrounding your outside unit, do so. Leaving enough room for unobstructed air to make its way to your system will help the airflow and ease tension on your unit.

Inspect your coil fins

While it’s important to ensure there’s no dirt buildup on your AC coils, it’s also important to inspect your coil fins any time you perform maintenance on your AC system. You should look closely to ensure no bends appear in the aluminum fins. Bent fins can impact airflow and thus hinder the efficiency of your system.

If you notice bent fins around your AC coils, contact an HVAC professional to see if they can either come and work them out for you or sell you a fin comb so you can work the fins back to their normal state.

Keep tabs on the condensate/AC drain line

Your AC drain line, also called the condensate drain, is that small, dripping line outside your home near your outside unit. This line’s main function is to remove condensation from your AC’s evaporator coil. If the condensation builds up too much, many systems have a sensor that will shut down your air conditioning.

It’s important to check on your condensate line occasionally to avoid disruption to your AC. If you sign up for a maintenance plan through your HVAC professional, ensuring your drain line is clear is part of the process. They will inspect and clear debris to ensure you don’t experience a musty smell near your indoor unit and to keep your AC system operating smoothly.

Turn off your AC unit and check the drain pan to monitor this area between your annual checkups. If you notice standing water, it could be a sign of a blockage. You can soak it up with a towel or remove the excess water with a wet vac. After removing any visible debris near the drain pipe opening, you can use a plumber’s snake to remove the clog.

Once the clog is cleared, your HVAC technician can advise you on which mild cleansing agent, such as distilled vinegar, to use to clean the drain between visits.

Winter preparation

Once the winter months start to roll in, there are a few action items to check off to ensure your HVAC system doesn’t run into any issues. Check out the seal between any air conditioner unit installed in a window to ensure it’s touching the unit’s metal case. Humidity and moisture can hinder the seal over time, letting cool air escape your home.

If you know you won’t use your AC wall unit throughout the winter, you can cover it up or take it down for storage. If you have a central air system, covering the outdoor portion of your unit can protect it from debris and other environmental stress.


Your HVAC system is a complex unit that works tirelessly all year round. To ensure it operates at maximum efficiency and to “keep your cool,” change or clean your air filters every one to three months.

Set a reminder on your phone so you don’t forget! When your reminder goes off, look around your AC unit to see how your drain line is doing, and pour in a cleansing solution to keep things moving. Clear out any debris around your outside unit, and if you suspect your coils have collected dust or dirt, inspect and clean them.

Whenever your HVAC needs more than DIY maintenance, contact a licensed HVAC professional in your area so a properly trained technician can assess the situation and provide a repair or guidance.

An HVAC specialist can verify if you have the correct amount of refrigerant, test for refrigerant leaks using their specialized equipment, measure the airflow through the evaporator coil, inspect electrical components and oil motors if necessary, ensure your thermostat is operating correctly, and so much more.

Ongaro & Sons — your HVAC experts

Ongaro & Sons is a family-owned business in its fourth generation of operation. For over 90 years and counting, we have provided affordable HVAC solutions for the North Bay area, ensuring stability for our valued customers. You can always count on great prices and exceptional service when working with the HVAC specialists at Ongaro & Sons.

Our NATE-certified technicians are experienced industry veterans capable of maintaining and repairing any furnace, heat pump, or boiler system. We are a licensed state contractor with fully insured, qualified, and professional technicians dedicated to industry-leading HVAC solutions.

With decades of institutional knowledge and experience, our service technicians are among the most capable in the industry.

We’re committed to providing ongoing training and education opportunities, to help our technicians develop and learn new skills. As HVAC technologies continue advancing, we always work to bring our customers the best HVAC services and solutions. 

If you experience any HVAC-related issues, contact Ongaro & Sons here or call us at 707-419-3135.  Before beginning our work, we’ll investigate the cause of your issue and provide detailed quotes and recommendations. No matter the project, you’ll always know exactly what to expect and what you’ll pay.