Warmer weather has arrived, and with a few 80-degree highs already, some of you may be thinking about turning on your air conditioner for the first time this year. Is your outside unit ready to work for the season?
Homeowners can prolong the life of the unit and increase the efficiency of the system by following a simple maintenance plan. Some checks should be done immediately, while others need to be done only seasonally or yearly.
Mid-to-late spring, before extremely hot temperatures, is the best time to have the system checked. Many times breakdowns happen when the system is turned on for the first time of the season – after it has been sitting through the fall and winter unused. Catching the problem early can save you from being caught in the rush of emergency calls when the temperatures truly heat up. Keep in mind that the outside temperature should be around 60 degrees or warmer to accurately check an air conditioning system.
Here are a few items that should be on any maintenance checklist:
- Make sure all outdoor units and heat pumps are on firm, level ground, or on pads, every year.
- Replace the filter inside your home on a regular basis.
- The outdoor unit contains a fan that pulls air in through the sides of the unit and pushes it out the top. In order to work efficiently, the condenser needs to be free of debris and grass or weeds growing up around the unit. At the start of cooling season, and throughout the summer, check the outside unit frequently and spray off any debris stuck to the sides of the unit. This can be done with water from a garden hose.
- Check to make sure there are at least two feet of clearance around outdoor air conditioning units and heat pumps.
- Start the system, before outdoor temperatures turn hot, to make sure it will run properly and will cool when you need it to the first time.
- During spring, summer, and fall, remove debris such as leaves, pollen, and twigs from the top and sides of the outdoor unit and heat pump. Don’t allow the lawn mower to discharge grass clippings onto the unit.
- The coils of the unit should be “deep cleaned” as part of regular maintenance on the unit. This involves applying a cleaning solution to the unit that will break up dirt and other particles that get pulled into the fins of the unit’s coils. The cleaner the coil, the more easily air can move efficiently through the unit.
- Schedule annual maintenance with a professional.
It’s a good idea to hire an HVAC company to inspect and perform maintenance on your system every fall and spring. They will do tasks such as inspecting and cleaning the wiring and mechanisms of the unit — jobs that may be more challenging for the average homeowner.