HomeTips.com sums up the start of air conditioning season the best, “On the first really hot day of summer, the last thing you want is to flip the switch on your central air conditioner only to find that it doesn’t work.”
As tempting as it might be, during that first hot blast of the season, to crank your AC, it’s not a good idea. When an air conditioner sits idle for months, collecting leaves and debris, a bit of maintenance is usually needed to get it running properly. If you don’t do this maintenance before summer arrives, you may end up waiting several hot days for a service pro and paying top-of-the-season prices.
However, if you aren’t mechanically inclined when it comes to your AC preventative maintenance, these things, and more, can be scheduled with most HVAC companies for a fee, as a part of their yearly maintenance programs.
To start your maintenance program, check your thermostat to make sure it’s working properly. Or, if it’s outdated, consider getting a new one. You could save money and energy by installing a newer, programmable thermostat. Check to make sure all of the vents throughout your home are open so cool air can flow through them. Move anything blocking the airflow around the vents, such as curtains or furniture.
The easiest and cheapest part of AC maintenance is to change the filters. Some experts say to clean or replace your filters twice a year, or whenever they begin to look clogged with dust. However, depending on the types of filters you buy, the recommended replacements might be monthly or quarterly. Be sure to pay attention to the airflow directions arrow on both the system and the filter: they both need to be pointing in the same direction.
If you don’t change your filters, airflow through your home will be restricted, reducing efficiency, and you'll recirculate dust into your home.
Having pets is also a good reason to stay on top of the condition of your filters. Pet hair can get sucked into your home’s exchange and can take over a filter if left unchanged.
Don’t forget about the crawlspace. Homes that sit on one may have ductwork underneath the home as well. If you’re able, check for any exposed ductwork for wear or damage, which could be a source of cooling loss or inefficiency in the home.
Outside your home, scoop any leaves or debris out of the base of the condenser and away from the unit itself. Cut and remove any weeds or vines that may obstruct airflow through the condenser unit. If it has a drain, make sure the drain is clear and intact.
Make sure to inspect the outdoor unit’s panels. These panels are designed to enclose the electrical connections and must be in place to help protect both you and the system. If you are missing a panel, or if one is misaligned, this could cause potential risks for both you and the operation of the equipment. If the panel covering the electrical connections is missing or out of place, you should call a qualified technician for an assessment before starting your system.
If you have an indoor air handler unit, check the coil drainage hose. This hose, usually plastic, is also called the “condensate line.” Since the coil’s temperature is lower than the ambient air, water will condense on the coil and drip into the tray below. This condensate needs to flow to a drain, or the tray will fill up and flood the unit or potentially spill water into your basement. Check to make sure the line is in the proper place, attached, and drains to the appropriate location.
Finally, when you think you’re ready to cool off and you’ve gone through your Angie's List AC prep checklist, turn on your AC. Wait for a nice, hot day when you have some time to check the air coming out of the indoor vents for the first few minutes after starting it, and then every few hours throughout the day. After the first few minutes, you should feel cool air coming out of the registers.
If no air is coming out, or if the air coming out does not feel cool, then something is wrong. Turn the system off at the thermostat immediately. Go through the checklist one more time and try it again.
Also, go outside and listen to your outdoor unit run. Make sure the fan in the condenser is running and it doesn't sound irregular. The air coming out of the top of the unit should feel warm, as it's the warm air being removed from your home by the system.
If a problem persists, turn the system off and call an HVAC contractor to diagnose the problem. Leaving the system turned on when it’s not running properly can do a lot of damage.
What are your favorite indoor activities in Hampton Roads, when it’s too hot to be outside? Share with us in the comments! Thinking about buying your new home this spring? Start your search with us!