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Make Your Window Air Conditioner Last Longer With These Easy Tips

Summer is coming soon and it's getting hot outside. Here's how to keep your window AC unit in top shape.

window air conditioner
Like most appliances around your home, you have to regularly care for your AC unit to keep it in tip-top shape.
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This story is part of Home Tips, CNET's collection of practical advice for getting the most out of your home, inside and out.

When the brutal summer weather brings the heat, a window air conditioner can help you keep your cool. Did you know your trusty window AC unit can last upward of 10 years? But this is only with regular maintenance. 

Like most appliances around your home, you have to regularly care for your AC unit to keep it in tip-top shape. Follow the six tips below to keep your air conditioner in optimum condition for as long as possible. And here's the best part: These suggestions are all relatively simple and won't break the bank. 

Read also: 28 Ways to Cut Costs at Home Right Now

1. Choose the right AC model for your room 

When selecting a window AC unit, you need to account for the size of your room first. If you choose a less powerful model to cool a larger area, it forces the unit to work harder to cool the room, resulting in a shorter operational life span. 

Therefore, when selecting the appropriate model, you want to examine an air conditioner's British Thermal Unit capacity (also known as BTUs.) The more BTUs a unit has, the more powerful it is. As a guide, you need 20 BTUs for every square foot of the room you need to cool. So, in the case of a 500-square-foot room, you would need an air conditioner capable of delivering at least 10,000 BTUs. 

2. Find the best location for your AC Unit

When setting up your AC unit, you want to avoid placing it in direct sunlight. Doing this will force it to work harder. Instead, if you have a window in your room that has shade, install it there. In turn, you extend the life of your air conditioner since it will not overheat from the sunlight. 

3. Keep the filter clean

The filter collects particles like dust, hair and more. When you use your air conditioner regularly, you will need to wash the filter once a month.

To clean the filter, first, turn off the unit and unplug it. Next, remove the filter from the front panel. If you notice a lot of dust, hair, or other debris, you can use the attachment from a vacuum cleaner to give the filter a deeper clean. 

You can also clean the filter using soap and warm water. Once the filter dries, reinstall it. A good rule of thumb is to replace your filter once every six weeks to six months, depending on how often you use your air conditioner, how many pets you have and what kind of filter you use. 

4. Maximize efficiency

Having the air on full blast all the time shortens your AC's lifespan. While it does keep you cool, it also forces the unit to work harder to achieve this setting. Turning the air conditioner off when you leave maximizes its efficiency and prolongs its operational life span. 

A smart alternative is to use the eco-settings (if your system comes with one) or use a smart plug to manage your AC unit more closely via remote access on your phone and automatic on/off scheduling.

5. Keep the fins clean and aligned

Your window air conditioner has aluminum fins that cover the coils. Over time, dust, dirt and other debris can build on them. Without regular cleaning, it could lead to mold growth in the unit.

With this in mind, you should clean the fins at least once a year. To do so, turn off your air conditioner and unplug it. Next, you need to remove the housing screws. You can clean the fins with a mix of warm water and dish soap. Remove any particles you find with a brush. You should also rinse the remaining suds off the fins. 

At this time, you want to make sure the fins are in good shape. The ones on the back coil can be prone to bending. And if they are bent, they force your AC unit to work harder. To straighten them, use a fin comb

Read more: How to Clean Your Window Air Conditioner

6. Inspect and clean the drain

When using your air conditioner, you should also inspect its drain once a month for any clogs. To remove them, use a stiff wire. Keeping your drain clear reduces the likelihood of moisture buildup, which can shorten the life of your AC.

These tips can help you prolong the life of your window unit. Make sure to do this maintenance (aside from replacing your filters more regularly) at least once a year. Ideally, try out these maintenance tips before the weather heats up so you aren't stuck making repairs without air conditioning. You could also enlist the help of a professional to check your air conditioner for you.

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