During the heat of summer, you need to make sure that your AC system is working efficiently. This will help you to maintain acceptable levels of indoor comfort and lower your energy bills at the same time. It’s a good idea to prepare your HVAC system ahead of each cooling and heating season. But, if you feel that you’ve “missed the boat” for this season or your system hasn’t been tuned up for a while, don’t worry. Your local HVAC specialist should have a more in-depth maintenance schedule to get your AC working efficiently. Let’s take a look at three ways that you can maintain your AC system.

1.  Regular Air Filter Changes

This is the first item on our list because it’s the easiest to do and yet it can have a massive impact. No special skills are needed to change your air filter(s) and the full instructions can be found in the owner’s manual for your AC system. But, some people avoid this simple task or forget about it entirely and that is a huge problem.

Most people believe that the air filter in their AC system is present to make the air cleaner for breathing. This is only partially correct. The particulates found in the air circulation through your home can contain debris, such as: dust, pollen, hair, pet dander and more. These particles can cause damage to sensitive components in your AC system. The primary purpose of the air filter is to keep these materials out of the system to keep it running efficiently. If the air filter is clogged, it will prevent the airflow required to run the system and this in turn will cause the system to work harder. Overworked equipment is more likely to fail and this can lead to an unexpected repair bill.

The frequency of an air filter replacement can change depending on the number of people living in your home and if you own any pets. In most cases, you should be changing the filter every 30-60 days. But, if you have a lot of pets or people in the home with allergies, you may need to change the filter more often. Smaller homes with no allergy sufferers or pets present may even be able to get away with a filter change every 6-12 months. If you’re not sure, take a look at the air filter and if it looks clogged, clean it or change it as necessary. If you want to upgrade your air filters to improve the indoor air quality (IAQ) , speak to your local HVAC specialist and they will be happy to help.

2.  Cleaning the Outdoor AC Unit

The outdoor AC unit is designed to withstand the harsh conditions but it can be damaged. When you clean the AC unit you can reduce these risks, improve efficiency and you may even extend the useful lifespan. If you have good DIY skills, this may be within your capabilities but if you’re not sure contact your local HVAC specialist for professional cleaning help.

It’s important to turn-off the power to the AC unit before you begin the cleaning process. Then, lift the fan grille and clean out the debris and leaves that have accumulated in the interior of the unit. Wear a pair of gloves and clear out the large pieces of debris by hand. When you have more space to work, switch to a wet/dry vacuum to remove the smaller pieces of dirt and debris.

Then take the outer covers off and remove the dirt, grime and debris located in-between the fins. Pay close attention to the fins, if they are bent they can be straightened with a fin comb or you could use a flat butter knife. If the fins are straight, you can avoid damaging them by washing the area with a garden hose. A pressure washer can easily bend the fins and make the AC unit less efficient. Now you can go ahead and put the fan grill back on and clean up the area around the outdoor AC unit. This unit relies on proper airflow to work efficiently and you may want to trim vegetation back by around 2 feet. If you have garden furniture and other items propped up on the unit they should be stored elsewhere.

When you go back into your home, take some time to clean the AC unit evaporator coil. The evaporator drain and pan may contain some biological matter that can mix with moisture and cause clogs. Clean the drain and flush the drain line clean to avoid localized flooding issues. The AC unit can be checked and cleaned throughout the hot summer months to keep the system working efficiently.

3.  Prompt AC Repairs

Many people suspect or find a problem with their air conditioner and they ignore it. Sadly, these types of problems don’t go away on their own and they can get worse over time. In most cases a minor repair that’s easy to fix can develop into a problem that can be far more expensive to correct. Let’s take a look at seven common signs that your AC system may need a professional repair:

  1. The air conditioner is short-cycling which means it’s turning on and off again quickly.
  2. The vents are not plumbing sufficient treated air or the air feels warm.
  3. You can hear strange noises.
  4. You can smell strange odors.
  5. The humidity levels in the home are wrong.
  6. The AC system seems to be leaking Freon or water.
  7. Higher than normal energy bills.

The final point is very pertinent, but most people don’t keep a careful track of their energy bills and they may miss a sudden or gradual rise. Over time, every HVAC system loses a certain level of energy efficiency which can be offset with regular servicing. If your system is old and the efficiency is very bad, it’s probably a better idea to replace it.

Another possible cause of inefficiency could be poor insulation levels and/or ductwork leaks. When you’ve paid to treat the air and it escapes the home easily, it’s a waste of energy. Other possible leak locations could be failing weather-stripping around doors and windows. Temporary repairs can be made to ductwork with duct tape, but it’s advisable to get them assessed by a local HVAC specialist for repairs or replacement.

Most AC systems last from 12-15 years and regular maintenance will put them in the upper range of that expected lifespan estimate. If your AC system is failing, you may notice a loss in home comfort and higher energy bills. Regular maintenance at the start of each cooling season by a local HVAC specialist will help you keep your home cool and protect your investment.