Keeping your air conditioner cool

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - It's really hot outside and we humans like it cool inside which means our air conditioners are working overtime to make us comfortable.

But, could they be a fire hazard?

Keith Glaub, owner of Arkansas Air, has the answer:

"Yes, air conditioners can catch on fire. Not very often; but, yes, they can catch on fire. They are like everything else. They will burn."

Assistant Jonesboro Fire Chief Alan Dunn says they do respond to AC fires from time to time. "But," he said, "It's rare to see one actually catch a home on fire." He went on to explain about the nature of AC fires they normally respond to.

Dunn, "The type of calls we go on, deal a lot of time with the fan motor locking up on the air conditioner causing smoke to come into a residence or business." On the other hand though they do go to quite a few window unit fires but it's generally not the unit itself.

"It's that they've used a light duty extension cord to power the air conditioner." Dunn said. "You should really not use an extension cord to run an air conditioner. You should plug it into the receptacle on the wall."

As a homeowner what steps can you take to keep your units humming and cooling along?

Glaub says preventive maintenance can prevent a lot of AC problems.

"Manufacturers recommend preventive maintenance twice a year. Spring, Fall, have it checked twice, inspected, serviced."

Glaub showed us a typical air conditioner and explained why someone needs to open it up and look inside.

Glaub, "You can have wires that will melt down that can cause something to catch of fire. The compressor can go down, pop it's top. Refrigerant will burn, I've seen it first hand. There's a lot of things you can do to prevent it from catching on fire."

Looking closer at that same air conditioner you see a build up of cobwebs and dirt from the dry dusty summer winds. A dirty outside unit is a troubled outside unit.

One of the easiest steps a homeowner can take to take care of his machine is quite simple, just wash it out. Glaub turned a hose on the vent slots on the sides of the machine.

He said, "If you are out in the yard anyway, take an extra minute to wash that unit out with a water hose while you're out there."

Other preventive methods include keeping your outside units shaded if possible and keep weeds and grasses from growing up and cutting off air circulation. Also inside filters need to be changed or cleaned regularly.

And it seems like many home units just run forever. Is that a problem? Glaub says no. "Most problems occur when a machine starts and stops. It's okay if your machine runs a lot." He pointed at the spinning electrical meter on the side of the house. "It does affect your utility bill but it's not hurting your unit for it to run and run and run."

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