Some people have their central air units serviced at the beginning of spring or summer. If you are one of those who have the service people come out and clean and check your central air unit at the beginning of every spring, you are well on your way to optimal performance.
Some people, however, cannot afford to have that done and will only call a service man if the unit fails. There are things you can do yourself to help the central air unit out, especially in extremely hot weather. It requires a little indoor and outdoor maintenance.
It is surprising how many central air units have weeds growing around them, or purposely planted shrubbery nearby. Central air units need to have free air flow to keep the compressor cool. The compressor will run a lot more on extremely hot days. Make sure there isn't anything blocking your central air unit. Keep the grass trimmed well around it and prune any bushes that are too close to it.
Blow the coils off every time you mow, or during really dry weather. When you mow your grass, the clippings fly out from under the mower. You may not realize you are passing right by the central air unit and throwing those clippings right through the fins of the vents, which become lodged on the coils. This will slow down the air flow.
If it has been especially dry and windy, dust and pollen blows through the air and becomes lodged in the coils too. It doesn't take much to restrict the air flow in the coils, therefore reducing how efficient the central air unit is working. Blowing the unit off with your hose will clean these coils out quite easily.
Use a garden hose sprayer that has a "power wash" setting on it. The power wash setting on a garden spray nozzle is not as forceful as a power washer, but it will do a good job. Place the nozzle as close to the unit as you can get it and spray it upward so that it gets under the vent fins. Run the nozzle across each vent fin and work your way down. You may be surprised at the gunk that flows out from under the unit.
Older central air units need all the help they can get. If you have an older unit and are experiencing extremely hot weather, go out early in the morning and use the water hose nozzle to blow the coils out so that the unit starts the day with good air flow.
This is also a good time to check the filter on the furnace side, too, if your unit works through your furnace. Sometimes we tend to forget about the furnace filter when the air conditioner is running. Just doing these simple cleaning tips will help your central air unit keep you cooler when the temperatures start to soar.