As the temperature starts to warm up, it is tempting to just turn on the air conditioner and see if it works acceptably. Before you give in to this temptation, you have some upkeep to arrange. With a little work and professional maintenance, you can rely on another great summer with your heating and air conditioning equipment.
1. Always Follow Safe Maintenance Practices
Whenever you handle electrical components, you should be sure that you are taking action carefully and safely, to avoid injuring yourself or damaging the equipment. Every time you inspect your HVAC machinery, you should turn off the circuit breaker to the appliance. Avoid handling components related to the fuel supply or combustion unless you have been trained in how to do so accurately and safely. Avoid using water to clean unless you know that the electrical components will not be damaged.
Once you are done and are certain that all components are fully dry, you can turn the circuit breaker back on.
2. Clean the A/C Unit
The exterior unit of the air conditioning system is designed to hold up under some pretty harsh weather during the winter. However, this can leave the outside of the unit quite dirty and covered in debris. Fortunately, it is a rather simple task to clean the exterior of the unit.
If you have used a specially designated air conditioner cover or a piece of wood on the top of the unit to prevent the accumulation of snow and ice, you should remove it now and put it away until the fall. When the power to the unit is shut off, you can use a stiff brush or a damp cloth to remove dirt and leaves. Take care to wipe the fins gently, because they are delicate and can be damaged easily.
3. Encourage Airflow
In order to promote efficient cooling during the spring and summer, your air conditioner needs plenty of airflow around the exterior of the unit. During the fall and spring, bushes and trees near the unit may grow into that space. This encourages dust and debris to be pulled in, making the HVAC system dirtier and less effective. The first spring cleaning task you should perform in your yard is to ensure that you have at least 1-2 feet of airflow on all side of the unit. Rake leaves, trim grass and avoid planting anything new in the area.
4. Replace Air Filters
Keeping your air conditioner clean is only the first task in ensuring your unit runs as efficiently as possible. Inside the interior unit is a set of air filters that are designed to pull out dust, dirt and allergens from the air. Without the air filters, the system would just send these contaminants through your ductwork and into every room. This could aggravate allergies and make your home harder to keep clean. But once these filters get clogged, your machine must work harder to produce properly cooled air and contaminants may begin to pass through the equipment. Fortunately, all you have to do is buy new air filters for your HVAC system once a season.
5. Examine Evaporator Coils
A split-system air conditioner has two separate locations for the equipment: The compressor and the condensing coils are located outside. The evaporator coils are placed inside, often within the unit for the furnace. The evaporator coil serves to remove heat from the air passed across it, so that cooled air can be circulated throughout the home. Like the condensing coils, the evaporator coils have fins outside them to encourage airflow and protect them from debris.
These coils can get dirty over time. If they are not cleaned regularly, the dirt can collect condensation and freeze due to the refrigerant. This could cause serious damage to the evaporator coils, which are vital to the cooling system overall. If you notice that the coil apparatus appears dusty, you should arrange for a professional service to clean them.
6. Schedule Professional Service
Although there are certain general tasks you can do yourself to help promote the efficiency and longevity of your heating and cooling system—like changing your air filters or inspecting the outside of a unit for damage—most HVAC maintenance requires a professional technician. All it takes is one misstep by a homeowner who read some bad advice online, and you may have to pay for hundreds or thousands of dollars in repairs.
Professional service for your air conditioner is a seasonal necessity that often costs less than $100. For this minor investment, your HVAC technician will clean the equipment, inspect connections and components, and test the system to ensure that all aspects are functioning appropriately. A few hours out of your day will help to prevent a simple maintenance task from turning into a complicated repair or replacement.
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7. Ensure Your Home is Properly Sealed
Your air conditioner’s efficiency requires the rest of your HVAC system and your home to be set up ideally to reduce heat gain. The most common sources of HVAC inefficiency are related to the ductwork and air leaks around the windows and doors. Check each window and exterior door to confirm that they open easily and shut tightly. If you can see your ductwork in your basement, look to see if any portions seem twisted, kinked or damaged.
Ask your HVAC technician if ductwork sealing is appropriate for your home. Sealing your ductwork may improve your HVAC efficiency by as much as 20 percent.
8. Check Thermostat Settings
As you transition your thermostat from heating to cooling your home, you should take a moment to confirm that the thermostat is working effectively. Change the batteries and test it to make sure it turns the cooling on and off as directed. Consider turning the temperature settings up by a degree or two to save energy and ease the stress on your air conditioner during the hot summer ahead. If you have an old thermostat, think about replacing it with a newer model. The latest versions of programmable thermostats can adjust temperature without using as much energy, and may even allow you to monitor your HVAC efficiency online.
9. Consider Repair or Replacement
Sometimes, after an extended period of disuse, you go to turn on your air conditioner and realize that something is horribly wrong. The system may be working ineffectively, or not at all. At this time, you should request immediate service to determine the source of the problem. If the repairs are minor, you may be able to return your system to its previous efficacy for a reasonable expense. When the repair bill will be well over $1,000, or if your machine is 10 or more years old, you should think about replacing your HVAC rather than repairing it. A new air conditioner will be much more energy-efficient.
Getting your home ready for summer requires a lot of work. Thankfully, your HVAC system takes up only a bit of time to visually inspect your system and schedule professional service. Both tasks will promote the efficiency of your heating and air conditioning for years to come.