Air Conditioner Maintenance - Expat Community

Air Conditioner Maintenance

Apr 23, 2024 | Knowledge Base, Mexico | 0 comments

There are not many of us who can live here in Playa del Carmen without using Air Conditioners. They keep us cool, remove the excess humidity from our homes and generally make life more comfortable here in the Tropics. It may be chilly now, but soon the heat and humidity will return.

One of the topics most misunderstood is the need for periodic maintenance and complete review of our expensive lifesavers. Air Conditioners don’t last forever, but you can improve their efficiency, longevity and by doing proper maintenance, help reduce the cost of electricity and replacement. It does not matter if you use Inverter or Conventional AC technology, AC units are the hardest working appliances you will own given their location and use.

The Mini-Split system is the most common used here in Playa del Carmen. The compressor unit is mounted outside your home (usually on the roof) and for each compressor unit you have the evaporator unit mounted inside your home on a wall or ceiling. When we think of maintenance to these units, we tend to think about only the filters on the evaporator inside the home. But maintenance goes much further than periodic cleaning of the removable filters. The circulating portion of the system does exactly what it implies, it draws in the warm air and returns it cool producing condensate that is drained off via a tube outside the home. In this process it sucks in dust, animal hair and other particles floating in the air. Most of the particulates are caught in the filters but over time, all this matter attaches itself to the inside of housing, the cooling fins and vanes that direct the flow of cool air. The compressor unit which handles the bulk of the heat exchange is out of sight and generally out of mind when it comes to maintaining the system. It too is subject to dust particles, pollen and other particulate matter which can clog the aluminum fins and reduce efficiency costing you more in electricity. Remember, the harder your system must work the more energy it will consume to provide the same amount of cooling. Also up on your roof, the compressor unit is subject to the heat of the sun and ultraviolet light that destroys the insulation and protective tape covering the copper tubing (called the line set) that connects the compressor to the inside unit. Rust may form on the metal surfaces and eat into the metal. Rusting blades on the compressor unit add weight and can cause excessive wear on the fan motor bearings. Now that you know the parts of the system that receive the most abuse, let’s look at the maintenance.

The Evaporator Unit (Inside)

•Filters on the inside units are easily accessible and depending on the amount of use should be removed and cleaned every 2-3 months, sooner if you have pets and construction nearby that adds dust to the environment. This is a simple process, and you can do this on your own by removing them and giving them a good wash.
•Once every 6 months, the entire unit should be disassembled and thoroughly cleaned to remove all accumulated debris that has bypassed the filters and attached itself the inside of the unit. The heat exchanger fins should also be thoroughly cleaned as well. If they are coated with debris, the heat exchange is less efficient.
•Inspect and clean the condensate tubes that remove the water the unit produces. These are the drainage lines that carry the condensate from the evaporator. This is the water that you see draining outside your home from the AC unit. If you have condensate dripping from your unit down the wall or from the unit it is a sure sign of a blockage, loss of refrigerant, or dirty unit. It can also mean a leak in the seal where the line set penetrates the roof and in a heavy rain you have leakage.

A good service technician will disassemble the entire housing of the evaporator and clean each part. A great technicians will even set up a collection apron to collect the runoff from the liquid used to clean the unit. A solution of “Foamy Cleanser” (brand name) should be applied to the aluminum fins and rinsed off. This product is inexpensive and available at most AC dealers such as Perssa. If your tech is merely removing the filters and washing them, you are not getting a complete service.

The Compressor Unit (Rooftop)

Since most of us have no desire to go up on our roofs especially If access is not easy, it is important that you have your technician take photos before and after service so that you can make sure that what you have requested in service is performed.

•Every 6 months, sooner if the environment warrants it, the unit should be disassembled and thoroughly cleaned. First by vacuuming the aluminum fins, and then washing them with the same “foamy cleanser” mentioned above.
•The refrigerant levels should also be checked using the proper 3-gauge set. It is common for a Compressor to lose gas volume due to the nature of the system. Refrigerants during the cooling process change state from gas to liquid over and over. Lack of cooling may be a sign of a leak, or the system is low on refrigerant. Line sets are very thin copper tubes that cannot easily be repaired, many times a serious leak requires replacement of the entire line set.
•Another service your technician should be doing is checking the line voltage to make sure the unit is receiving the proper current for optimal operation. He should also check the output of the capacitors that also affect the voltage and result in poor cooling.
•Have your technician check the condition of the fan, and AC housing for rust. A little sandpaper, priming and touchup paint will help the unit last longer as well.
•While on the roof, have your technician inspect the point of entry of the line sets through the roof. Make sure it is properly sealed to prevent moisture from entering inside the home.
•Once per year, the insulation and reflective tape that covers the exposed lines on the roof should be inspected or changed if it shows degradation. The tape will be missing or may be brittle to the touch. The exposed insulation will also be brittle and begin to flake off as well. The sun, specifically the ultraviolet light, deteriorates these parts as they are under constant exposure to the elements. The insulation and tape protect the line set from heating of the copper pipes that can reduce efficiency as well.
•One final note, the compressor units should be bolted to the roof top. During a tropical storm, the unit can be blown over or even become airborne in the high winds resulting in damage to the unit, your home or your neighbor’s property.

We can be price conscious, but these added steps add cost to a routine cleaning process. If you are not having your tech perform these inspections and replacements, you are doing yourself a huge disservice that will end up costing you more in the long run having to replace a failed unit. If you are paying around $400 to $500 pesos per unit, you are getting the most basic of service. A good thorough cleaning depending on the size of the unit and should be in the neighborhood of $800 to $1200 pesos per unit plus material. If a recharge is necessary, you should expect to pay $1600 to $1800 pesos per unit. Please remember these are average prices, how well you shop around and negotiate is up to you. When contracting someone to service your units ask exactly what services they are performing for the price quoted. Also remember, if you are operating an Airbnb and paying Mexican Taxes, ask for a factura as maintenance can be a tax deduction against the income, the same applies to buying an AC Unit. Under the Mexican Tax System, only a properly executed factura can be used to offset income.

How long should an AC unit last? That depends on a number of factors. How well you maintain it, is the unit properly sized to cool the area intended for and how long you operate it. Undersized units work harder and wear out faster. You should get 6-8 years of service from a good properly maintained unit. Aside from the rising costs of electricity per kWh, if your electricity bills begin to soar it may be time to invest in new technologies and more efficient units.

This and many other topics are covered in An Expats Guide to Living in Playa del Carmen available only at

Ma’alob kanáantabáaj

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