Save Money By Doing Simple DIY Maintenance And Repair Before You Call A Professional

Up here in Minnesota summer usually doesn’t arrive until a little later in the year than many places, but when it gets here, it comes in with a vengeance. The last two days have been in the low to mid 90’s here in our area, and today there were tons of traffic problems all over town because the roads were buckling from the extreme heat.  They expect more of the same today, and temps may top 100 today!

With the heat comes air conditioning season.

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Our electric bills go through the roof as we enjoy having a nice cool home, and don’t mind paying for it. This year, however, we quickly realized over the last two days that our AC unit wasn’t functioning as it should.

Despite the fact that we were setting our thermostat to the low 70’s, the AC unit was struggling to keep it below 76 or 77 in the house. In the upstairs the temps were probably closer to 80 or so.

Calling In The AC Repairman

We decided on Sunday night that we would call the AC repairman on Monday morning to come out and fix our unit.  The temps in the house were just a little too high.

We called the heating cooling folks and were promptly told that we’d be put on a list, and that someone would be out later in the afternoon.  At 3:45 no one had shown, so we called them back.  They said the person was still coming, but that since it was such a hot and busy day, they were going from call to call and coming as quickly as they could.

Finally at around 9pm the repair guy shows up at our house.  He inspected our condenser outside, checked connections and then proceeded to inspect the inside of the unit.  After looking at the coils on the unit he announced that he was reasonably sure that the coils on our unit was just really dirty, and that cleaning them off would fix our issue.  He told us to come watch how he did it so that the next time we could save ourselves the house call, and the $172 that we paid to get our AC humming again.

First he unplugged the unit from the box next to the condenser on the wall.  After removing power from the unit he hooked up the hose, and proceeded to gently spray the coils. Sure enough they were exceedingly dirty, and the dirty water started pouring down.  After hosing the unit down thoroughly on all sides, he reconnected everything and plugged it back in.  It fired right up and when we walked in the house the temps were already starting to feel more livable. Within the next half hour the temps had dropped 5 degrees, and were at the desired temp within an hour or so.

Try These Simple DIY Fixes For Your AC Unit Before Calling The Repairman

Sometimes we take the easy route out like we did at our house this week, and we neglect to try and find our own fixes to problems just because we think that the problem might not be very easy to diagnose, or that only a professional could handle it.

In many instances, however, even a non-handy homeowner like myself could easily fix their home maintenance and repair problems with just a simple Google search.  For example, on our AC system “repair” last night, we ended up having to pay almost $175 for the guy to essentially hose down our AC unit.

If I had done a simple Google search before calling the professionals I would have found countless websites talking about how this is one of the most common reasons why an AC unit stops pumping out the cool air.  There are even countless videos on how to do it if you’re so inclined. Here’s one in case you want to make sure your own AC unit is clean and maintained.

Cleaning Your Own AC Unit

In case you want to clean your own AC unit and save yourself the hassles we went through and the money we spent, follow these simple steps shown in the video above.

  1. Clean Your AC UnitRemove power source from AC unit:  Usually there will be a box mounted next to the unit where you can open it and unplug the unit from power.  Barring that you can turn it off at the breaker box.
  2. Unscrew the grate/fan assembly on top:  Take off the grate on top, usually by removing several screws around the perimeter.   Remove the grate and the fan assembly carefully. Make sure not to bend the blades on the fan as this can cause problems later on.
  3. Remove any debris from inside unit, and from around outside:  You’ll usually find leaves, twigs and other plant debris inside the unit. Remove what you can see inside the unit, as well as removing any plants getting too close to the unit outside.
  4. Hose off the coils around the unit, removing dirt and other debris: Once you’ve cleaned out other material, hook up the hose and hose off the coils around the exterior with a slow steady stream of water. Make sure you’re not blasting the unit with high pressure water, however.
  5. Put it back together, plug it in and enjoy the cool air!:  Once you’ve removed all the debris, and dirt from the coils, put everything back together, and plug  the unit back in.  It should resume normal operation, but now with increased efficiency and much more cool air!

Another thing the average homeowner can check on their AC unit before calling professionals is the filter on their unit, usually found by the furnace inside the house.  If that filter gets too dirty it can impede the free flow of air and cause problems as well.  Change the filter regularly.

Next time we know we can try a few simple fixes like this – before calling the repairman. He told us yesterday that probably 1/2 of his calls during that day had been simply dirty coils – an easy DIY fix.

Other Simple DIY Fixes We’ve Done

We’ve had at least one other easy DIY fix lately that saved us hundreds of dollars.  Last month our washing machine started overflowing water in our laundry room.  Luckily we didn’t have a flood as some others have, but it was perturbing nonetheless.   Before we either called a repairman or bought a new washing machine, I decided to do a Google search for our make and model and see if there were any common and easy to fix issues that might cause overfilling like we had.  Turns out that there was a piece on the unit that tells the machine when to stop filling with water called the “fill switch”.  If it gets plugged (as sometimes can happen), the machine might not realize that it’s time to stop filling.  The site we found had another helpful video, which we watched to see how to disassemble the unit and find the part.  Sure enough, the piece was plugged with gunk.  After removing the debris we had a fully functioning washer again. Easy fix, and we saved hundreds on either a service call or a new machine.  Of course we’ll still be keeping a close eye on this machine for now as we don’t fully trust it… yet.

Lesson Learned: Simple DIY Fixes Can Save You Hundreds

The point I’m trying to get across here is that you don’t have to be handy in order to do your own home repair and maintenance tasks, at least the easy ones. In this day and age it’s pretty easy to find good instructions and tutorials online on how to diagnose and fix your problems without the help of an expert.  Just make sure you take all the necessary safety precautions, and don’t stray from the instructions, and in many cases you’ll be able to save yourself a ton of money!

Have you done your own repairs or maintenance in order to save money? Tell us about the last time you saved by doing your own DIY projects, and how much you think you saved in the comments.

Last Edited: 3rd April 2014

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  1. says

    Great post, Peter. For most of my adult life, “handy” has meant looking up phone numbers for repair people. But I just fixed a slow running bathroom faucet myself, saving on the $100 or more I’m sure a plumber would have charged to come fix the problem. I wrote about it here:

    The satisfaction of repairing something myself has motivated me to learn how to fix more things, so I appreciate your tips about the AC unit.

    • says

      That about sums it up for me too. Only in the past couple years have I been more willing to actually try doing things myself. I wish I had done that yesterday with the AC unit as well. At least now I know going forward what to try – and it’s a good reminder to check google and youtube next time first. :)

  2. efb says

    Its a shame that most households don’t know how to do simple repairs anymore. I worked with CubScouts and found that many of the boys couldn’t build simple things. Not because they didn’t want to but because they didn’t have a small hammer, or sometimes even a screwdriver. Many times they were living with single mothers, but not always. We just seem to have lost that attitude that we can care for our own things anymore…

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