We rely on our air conditioner systems when the weather turns hot and waiting until a heatwave arrives to check the AC unit is a bad idea. The AC unit is complex, it needs regularly scheduled maintenance to operate at optimal performance and efficiency. A well maintained AC unit is less likely to fail when you need it most and any minor repairs that are detected will be easier to fix. In this article, we will take a closer look at how you can prepare your AC unit for summer.
Checking the Air Filter
Before you head outdoors to check the AC unit, it’s a great idea to inspect the air filter. This is an underrated component because it’s inexpensive and easy to change. But, the air filter is crucial to the performance, energy efficiency, and reliability of the entire AC system. Why? Well, all the air in the home passes through the air filter multiple times throughout the day. That circulating air contains airborne particulates and many of them are captured in the air filtration media. Many people believe that the purpose of the air filter is to improve the indoor air quality (IAQ). But, this is only a secondary function, the main reason for the air filter is to protect sensitive components from damage. It’s a good idea to check and change the air filter on a monthly basis and the full instructions are in the owner’s manual for your system. If you can’t remember when you last changed the air filter, it’s a good idea to change it now for extra peace of mind.
What Happens If I Don’t Change the Air Filter?
The surface of the air filter media will become clogged and the airflow will be diminished. This will cause the AC system to work harder to push the air through the clogged filter. There are two main consequences that are bad for your home. First, because the AC system is being overworked it will use more energy and this will be reflected in your monthly bills. Next, when an AC system is working too hard the components are prone to failure and this will lower the expected lifespan of the system.
Preparing the Indoor Portion
We’ve already covered the need for a clean air filter in the indoor portion of the AC unit. But, there may be an accumulation of dust and other debris that’s built up over time. This needs to be cleared away to prevent contamination of the indoor air. Clean and well maintained equipment tends to perform more efficiently and this is especially true with AC systems.
Cleaning Around the Outdoor Unit
The outdoor portion of the AC unit is prone to dirt, dust, and other debris. The presence of branches, leaves, grass, and other foreign items can have a major impact on the performance and energy efficiency. If there is plant growth around the AC unit it should be trimmed back a few feet to make sure it doesn’t interfere with the operations. If there is any garden furniture, tools, ladders, or other items stored near the AC unit they should be moved. It’s important to remember that the AC unit can only operate at peak efficiency if it’s clean and clear of obstacles.
Cleaning the AC Unit
Before you remove the AC cover, find the power and shut it off and for good measure flip the breaker for the unit too. Inside the unit, you may see more dirt and debris and this should be removed before you start cleaning. Use a garden hose to clean the exterior coils and if they are any bent fins they can be straightened with a fin comb. But, take care because the fins are fragile and they can be damaged easily if you don’t go slowly.
Checking the Power
Once the cleaning is completed, it’s time to restore power to the AC unit and test it. When you’re ready, set the thermostat to a cooler temperature than the current indoor temperature. Let the AC system run for at least five minutes because certain models tend to need a few minutes to start working. If there is no power, check the breaker panel because you may have forgotten to flip the breaker. Many AC systems also have a dedicated power switch that may be located near your furnace and it looks like a light switch.
What About Window AC Units?
Many people remove their window AC units during the winter months to keep them clean and protected against potential damage. But, if you have left the window unit in all year you will need to do some extra cleaning to get it ready. Start with the coil, replace or clean the AC filter and wipe the fan motor clean. If you did store the window AC unit, it should still be cleaned and inspected before you place it in the window.
What is the Ideal Time for AC Unit Preparation?
The ideal time to prep your AC unit is when it’s warm outside, but not too hot that you would need to be running the air conditioner. It’s also a bad idea to work on this equipment in winter when water can freeze and cleaning can be a real chore. Cleaning the unit in late spring or early in summer is usually the sweet spot for AC unit preparation. If you wait too long, you may be uncomfortable in your home if the AC unit doesn’t start and you need to contact an HVAC specialist. It’s also important to understand that many people leave this task to the last minute. This means that the demand for heating and cooling technicians rises when the weather turns hotter. So, if you leave it too late you may have to wait longer to get a repair for your system.
If you want to schedule an inspection or some essential maintenance for your AC system, contact your local heating and cooling specialist today.