Preparing Your Air Conditioner Before Summer Hits
Your air conditioner has a lot of work to do over the sweltering hot months of summer. Every day of high temperatures is made much more tolerable with the cool breezes of an air conditioner blowing throughout your home. That’s why dealing with air conditioning problems or even entire system failures is a nightmare that no homeowner wants to deal with when it feels like an oven outside. Ensuring that your air conditioner is in proper working order to keep your home comfortable and cool over the summer is a very simple task as long as you follow these important steps.
Replace the Filter
Regular filter replacement is a necessary part of HVAC maintenance all year round, but it’s especially important right before seasons of heavy use such as summer and winter. Without a clean filter, your air conditioner will struggle to push air through the ducts. In summer, a dirty filter may cause the air conditioner to constantly run because it’s unable to cool down rooms effectively. This puts unnecessary strain on the unit and leaves you and your family struggling to stay cool. A fresh filter at the start of the season allows cool air to flow freely and drastically improves efficiency.
Change the Program on Your Thermostat
The U.S. Department of Energy suggests keeping your thermostat set to 78 degrees when you’re at home and 88 degrees when you’re away to minimize energy usage as much as possible while also keeping your home at a comfortable temperature.
However, different climates, health conditions and other factors may make 78 degrees a little too high to be comfortable. As a general rule of thumb, setting the thermostat between 72 and 78 degrees is usually the best range for nearly anyone to feel comfortable at home during summer. When you’re away, 88 degrees or 10 degrees above whatever temperature is set for when you’re at home is adequate for ensuring maximum energy efficiency. If you have pets at home, it’s best to leave the temperature at the same level as when you’re at home to ensure their safety and comfort.
Clean the Air Ducts and Vents
Over time, air ducts and vents get clogged with dust, hair, dander, pet fur and much more. Clogged ventilation systems severely restrict air flow, making it difficult to regulate temperatures in the house. Most vents can be cleaned by simply wiping them off or vacuuming them, but cleaning the ducts requires the assistance of a professional HVAC service to ensure that they’re cleaned thoroughly and without damage to the ductwork.
Clean the Condenser Coil
The most important part of any air conditioning system is the condenser coil. Without it, the air flowing through the system can’t be cooled properly. The air conditioner will just circulate the warm air through the rooms of the home. Dirt, grime and debris prevent the condenser coil from working effectively. If the condenser coil remains filthy for too long, it will put undue strain on the system, cause functionality problems and reduce the lifespan of the unit.
Get your condenser coils professionally cleaned at least once a year. If you live in a location where grime builds up quickly on the unit, it’s better to have it cleaned twice a year. Clean it once about a month before summer hits, and have it cleaned again around halfway into the season.
Inspect the Coolant Lines
Coolant lines are also incredibly vital parts of your air conditioning system. Without them, refrigerant cannot be transported throughout the unit. Refrigerant is necessary to remove heat from the air being pulled from the rooms and to cool the air being reintroduced to the home.
The coolant lines are copper pipes covered in foam insulation connected to your outdoor unit. Replace any lost or ripped insulation to ensure that the pipes are protected from damage and there is minimal temperature loss to the coolant as it is transported through the lines. If you notice any cracked pipes or leakage, contact an HVAC professional immediately to fix the issue.
Clear the Area Around the Outdoor Unit
In order to have maximum airflow through the system and to keep as much debris out of the unit as possible, it’s important to keep the area around the outdoor unit clean. Trim hedges that are impeding on the unit, cut the grass, rake away leaves, clear away any trash, move furniture or decorations that are too close to the system, and try to keep dust and mud to a minimum by putting down mulch or crushed rock in the surrounding area.
Check the Air Conditioner Pad
An air conditioner pad keeps the outdoor unit from sitting in the dirt. If the unit rests in the dirt, it may sink over time, restricting airflow through the unit. Dirt, bugs and debris will build up in the system much faster. The change in angle will strain and possibly break the coolant lines and other pipes connected to the unit. The awkward position can also allow the unit to shake violently during operation, which drastically increases the amount of wear and tear on the machine. An air conditioner pad keeps the unit efficient, stable, level and clear of obstructions.
It’s important to check the pad every year to ensure that it’s not sinking or cracked. If it is, you need to call a professional HVAC technician immediately to repair the pad. Failure to do so may result in severe damage to the unit.
Check the Fins
Outdoor units are covered in vents to help disperse heat away from the system. These vents have hundreds of thin metal fins that both help direct air away and keep debris out. When these fins get bent or dirty, it restricts airflow and prevents the heat from escaping easily. Dirty fins are quickly cleaned by gently spraying them with a hose or using an air conditioner fin comb. Bent fins are fixed easily by any HVAC professional.
Test the System
You can do absolutely everything correctly in regards to air conditioner maintenance and still wind up facing a breakdown the first time you use the system after nearly a year without being active. Once everything is clean and clear, turn on the unit to ensure that it works. Listen for any odd noises, take note of any strange smells, and turn the fan speed up and down to ensure everything is in proper working order.
Schedule a Tune-Up
No aspect of seasonal maintenance is more important than getting regular tune-ups. The best scheduling pattern to ensure your HVAC system stays running effectively for as long as possible is to get a tune-up for your system at the start of summer and schedule another when winter is near.
If you’re preparing your air conditioner for the scorching heat of summer, you can rely on our experienced professionals at Meade’s Heating and Air to thoroughly inspect, maintain and repair any part of your air conditioner. We also provide installation and repair services for furnaces, water heaters, humidifiers, dehumidifiers, UV air sanitizers, gas lines and much more. If you’re interested in any of these services and you live in or around the Sterling, Virginia area, contact us at Meade’s Heating and Air today for more information.