By Alan Dykes, Contributing writer

An air conditioner's filters, coils, and fins require regular maintenance to work efficiently and properly.You have to maintain these few things in order to get the years of service that you need and deserve from the unit that you have invested your money in. Neglecting these few steps will cause a steady incline in performance, costing you money. Also, your comfort level will decline because your unit is struggling to reach its peak performance potential.

One of the most important things to check with your HVAC unit is your filters. Clogged and dirty air filters will air through your unit, causing a significant drop in your system's performance. With the air flow being blocked by dirty debris the air that comes through the filter can carry dust and debris directly to the evaporator coil, causing a big drop in performance. Keeping your air conditioner's filters clean can lower your unit's energy consumption 5 to 15 percent.

For central air units, the filters are generally located somewhere along the air-return ducts. They are sometimes found in walls, ceilings, furnaces, or in the air conditioner itself. Room air conditioners have the filter mounted on front behind the front grill. Some type of filters are reusable, others have to be replaced. The more your unit runs the more often you need to check these filters. Filters are rated by a Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value (MERV). The higher the MERV number the more the filter is effective at keeping dirt out of your system.

The air conditioner's evaporator coil and condenser coil can collect dirt over the years of usage that it has served. A clean filter will prolong this but in time the coil will still collect dirt. This debris reduces the air flow and reducing its ability to absorb heat. To avoid this problem you need to check this coil at least once a year. A good time of the year to do this is in the spring when you do your spring cleanup from the winter you just endured.

Outdoor condenser units need the same type of attention. You can easily see the coil to see if dirt is collecting on the fins. Check with your local home department store or HVAC expert and see if they have a cleaner available for these coil.

The aluminum fins on evaporator and condensing coils easily become bent and prevent air from moving through these coils. Air conditioner supply stores sell a tool called a "fin comb" that will hold these fins back close to their original position.

These units also have a condensate drain that could become clogged. These clogged drains prevent a unit from reducing humidity that would send more moisture in your home. You can occasionally send a stiff wire through the units drain channels to prevent this form happening.