Could Your Air Conditioning Unit Be A Fire Hazard?

If you needed a good reason to have your air conditioning unit inspected regularly and kept well-maintained, fire experts say that more than 7,400 fires each year are caused by faulty a/c units. What causes the fires in these air conditioners, and what should you do to reduce your risk?

Most air conditioning fires take place because of overheating, whether because the unit is working too hard or because the wiring or electrical connection is not correct. Here are five things you must do to make sure your a/c unit is operating properly.

1. Change Your Air Filter

If your air conditioner's filter is clogged, it can force your unit to work harder than it needs to. Over time, this can result in your a/c going off completely, or the entire unit could overheat. 

2. Clean Your Condenser Coils

The tubes that carry heated refrigerant away from your air conditioner's condenser are notorious for attracting dust and dirt. And when that happens, the refrigerant can't release heat like it is supposed to. This is another common reason why a/c units overheat.

3. Check Your Refrigerant

If your air conditioner is low on refrigerant -- probably because there is a leak allowing it to escape -- the unit won't be able to cool air like it should and it will have to work harder. This can cause overheating.

4. Maintain Your Drain Lines

Homeowners who don't have regular inspections of their air conditioning units may find that their drain lines get clogged up and their drainage pans overflow. Sometimes this overflowing water can run on to electrical equipment, causing a short circuit and sparks that can cause a fire.

5. Plug directly into an outlet and don't overtax that outlet.

Roughly one-third of fires involving air conditioning began with ignition of wire or cable insulation. If your air conditioner isn't wired directly into the wall, you may have it plugged into an outlet. Never plug an air conditioner into a power strip or extension cord, as too many items on one outlet can overload the outlet and cause the wires to heat up. Ideally, your main circuit breaker would detect the problem and trip the circuit, but you can't depend entirely on that. Check your cords regularly to be sure that they are not frayed or damaged.

Talk to your air conditioning repair expert about inspecting and maintaining your air conditioning unit on a regular basis. Not only will a well-maintained unit be less likely to cause a house fire, but it will last longer and save you money on cooling costs.