As summer sets in, it's time to bring your window air conditioning unit out from storage and make sure they're working efficiently. While there are a few maintenance items that you should look at, few will have a greater effect on your unit's' efficiency than ensuring its fins are straight. Taking a few moments to comb your window air coil fins will make it more efficient and save you money all summer long.
Air Conditioners Have Fins
All air conditioning units, including window air conditioners, use fins to speed up the heat exchange process. As air passes through a unit, fins help draw more heat out of the air because they increase the unit's surface area. Thus, the unit can cool air quicker than if just a metal coil were used.
These fins are made extremely thin, in order to maximize the number of them and, consequently, the surface area that's in contact with the air.
The Fins are Easily Bent
Because the fins are thin, they are easily bent. Every type of air conditioning unit has fins that are susceptible to bending, but window air conditioners are especially at risk of having their fins bent. First, they usually don't have protective bars in front of the fins, like some central air conditioners do. Second, window units often sustain minor damage when they're moved or stored. If it's dropped or something else is set on top of your unit during a move or while it's being stored, the unit's fins may be bent.
Bent fins prevent any air conditioner from working properly, because air cannot flow freely through them. Air conditioners work by cooling these fins and then rapidly moving air through them. Anything that blocks air from passing through, such as bent fins, prevents them from cooling efficiently.
Combing Fins Straight is Easy
If your air conditioner's fins are bent, it's easy to straighten them with a fin comb. These are available at many hardware stores and online.
Fin combs come in different sizes, which refer to the number of fins per square inch. For instance, a comb might be designed for units with 12 fins per inch or 13 fins per inch. You can find out what size comb you need by either looking up in the owner's manual how many fins per inch your unit has or manually measuring the number of fins in 1 inch.
If you have only one window air conditioner, then you just need a comb that matches its number of fins. If you have multiple units, though, SFGate recommends purchasing an adjustable comb that can accommodate different numbers of fins per inch. It only makes sense to pay more for an adjustable comb, however, if you have more than one unit.
To use the comb, line its fingers up between the fins and gently run it the length of the fins. You may need to do this a few times. With patience, through, the fins will eventually straighten out. You don't need to get the fins so that they're perfectly straight and parallel, but air should be able to pass freely through them. Once you've straightened out all the fins, your air conditioner will be able to cool a room much more quickly and efficiently.
Before you set up your window air conditioner for the summer, take a few minutes to look at its fins. If they aren't straight, call professionals at a place like Aggressive Mechanical Contractors or go to the hardware store and buy a comb to straighten them with. Spending just a few minutes making sure your air conditioning unit's in good shape will help it run efficiently and save you money every time you turn it on this summer.