Once summer hits, you’ll want your air conditioner ready to go. You know there will be that one day where it’s just time to turn it on. And, when that day comes, you want it working in tip-top shape.
That means doing some prep before using it. There are a handful of things you can do to make sure your a/c will work properly this summer. This will ensure you’re getting nice, cool air with no problems all through the warm weather.
Prepping your air conditioner can also save you money. A properly-working air conditioner will run efficiently, using less energy and costing less to run than one that needs work. And, making sure it’s working well can prevent costly breakdowns.
Fortunately, it’s not hard to prep an air conditioner on your own. However, it may take some time, especially if you’ve never done it before. So, it’s a good idea to get started a little early.
Here are six tips to get your air conditioner ready for summer.
Change Your Air Filter
We’ve covered this before: It’s important to change your air filters regularly. These simple, inexpensive traps block all sorts of dust and debris from getting in and gumming up your system. But, once they become full they’ll also block the air that you actually want to get through.
Therefore, it’s a good idea to change your filter when the seasons change. This is especially important after the winter. Your furnace has been working for a while and has probably collected plenty of debris.
To change them, just find the place where the filter rests. This is often near the furnace or in the return vent, which is the vent that draws in the air instead of pushing it out. Once you find it, pull out the old filter and insert the new one. It’s really as easy as that.
Clean Around The Outdoor Condenser
Chances are, you’ll need to clean around your outdoor condenser. This is the big, blocky piece of machinery that usually sits right outside your house. Over the winter, wind and rain can cause all sorts of debris to pile up around it.
If you’ve got a big yard, this can be sticks and twigs. Or, nearby shrubs or trees can grow around it. Meanwhile, trash and litter can collect if there are other houses around or if people walk past it regularly.
It’s time to clear away this debris and trim any greenery that’s crowding the condenser. This helps your overall system work better.
Looking at the unit, you’ll see a fan at the top, and the sides have slots, or fins (more on those in a minute). That’s because air passes through the sides as part of the process. All that trash and debris that’s built up around it can block air flow. That makes the unit run less efficiently.
Clean And Fix The Fins
Remember those fins we were talking about a minute ago? Now it’s time to look at those a little closer — literally. You’ll want to get up close to them in order to clean and fix them if necessary.
Air passes through the fins. If they’re blocked or bent badly enough, the air can’t get through. And, since the fins suck in air, they’ll suck in whatever’s floating around, too. This includes dust, dead leaves and “cotton” from weeds or dandelions.
So, you’ll need to take some time and remedy this. It’s simple but may take a while if the fins are in bad shape.
To start, unplug the outdoor condenser unit. Then, use a vacuum cleaner or soft brush to clean the fins without damaging them. A toothbrush will do the trick. You can also spray the unit with a hose. Just keep the water pressure on the weaker side.
Finally, get inside the unit. Usually, you can move the fan but not take it out completely. Clear out any trash that made it inside the condenser. A vacuum cleaner works well here.
If the fins are bent, you can straighten them yourself. Just go slowly and be very careful not to break them. You can use a large knife to steady them. Or, head over to a hardware store. They should have inexpensive tools just for this purpose.
Check The Hoses
You can spot-check the hoses to make sure they are ready to work. Depending on the model, there can be more than one coming from the unit leading to your hose.
Check each one to make sure they are fastened correctly. You can take them off to clean the ends if they’re dirty. Just make sure the unit is off. Also, look for frost or ice around them. If you see any, this could mean the freon hose needs to be reattached.
You can reattach the freon hose yourself if it’s loose. But, there’s a chance that part of it is broken. So, you’ll want to keep an eye on it later on. If ice or frost keeps collecting, something may be broken.
If your unit is already running, check for the coil drainage hose, too. Water will condense here and drip into a tray that’s located just below it. Make sure the water is making it to that tray and down the drain. If it’s not, that water could be building up somewhere inside the unit.
Check Your Indoor Air Ducts
You don’t always have to clean out your air ducts or vents. Doing so won’t hurt anything. But, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, it can be a waste of time in some cases. Still, it’s a good idea to check them out.
If you see droppings or other signs of rodents, you should get your air ducts cleaned out. The same goes for mold or if dust is visibly blowing into your home through the vents. In this case, consider a professional cleaning. And, try to get to the root of the problem. Otherwise, you’ll end up needing another cleaning soon enough.
Give Your Air Conditioner A Test Run
After all this, you’re ready to make sure the air conditioner is actually working as it should. You’ll need to wait for a day when it’s at least 80 degrees. Otherwise, the unit won’t get cool enough for you to test.
Let your a/c run for 15 minutes. Then place a thermometer near the supply register, or vent that’s blowing cold air, closest to the unit. Check the temperature after five minutes. Then leave the thermometer near a return vent, which draws the air out of your home.
The cold air coming in should be 14 to 20 degrees cooler than the air near the return vent. If it’s not, something’s wrong. There could be a blockage somewhere in the system.
You could try to find the blockage yourself by undoing any hoses and checking them. Remember also to check the outdoor unit and the air filter. If you don’t see anything, it’s time to call a professional.
If, however, the temperature is right, then you’re all set for the summer. Not only is your system working correctly, but you’ve also made sure it’s working as well as it can.