With winter winding down in southwest Ohio, it’s not too early to start thinking about steps you’ll want to take to prep your air conditioning system for the spring. A mixture of easy do-it-yourself steps and a comprehensive maintenance check by your trusted HVAC professional are just the ticket for preparing your AC or heat pump for the lengthy cooling season.
First off, steps you can take yourself to get our AC ready for spring:
• The first one is obvious. Once it starts warming up outside, remove any cover that you’ve placed on your AC or heat pump’s outside compressor unit during the winter.
• Unless you’ve done it recently, replace the air filter in the inside unit of your AC or heat pump. If you’re like many homeowners, your furnace blower serves as the blower for your air conditioning system, and likely collected ample dust and debris over the long winter months. Likewise, if you used a heat pump for winter heating, its filter could be clogged as well. A dirty air filter will force the AC or heat pump blower to work overtime to push air through the system, which stresses the equipment, wastes energy and may reduce cooling efficiency.
• Inspect the area around the AC’s outside unit to make sure there’s no vegetation, clutter or other objects restricting the clear flow of air into and out of the condenser/compressor unit.
• Similarly, you want a clear path for conditioned air blowing from supply registers, and back into return registers. It’s not unusual for rugs, drapes, furniture, toys and other household items to inadvertently get shoved overtop registers. This will force your system to work harder than necessary to cool your home.
• Air leaks may have developed in the outer perimeter of your home over the winter, or may have been there in the first place. During hot weather, this means your cooling system has to work harder and longer to satisfy the setting on the thermostat. Common areas for air leaks are where building materials meet (such as foundation and drywall), where utilities penetrate exterior walls in the home, such as exhaust pipes, plumbing and electrical conduits, and around windows and doors. Depending on the particular type of leak, use caulk, weatherstripping or spray foam to seal the leaks and make your home as airtight as possible.
Now that you’ve done your part to prepare your home for the warm spring and summer weather, it’s time to call in your trusted HVAC professional to complete a spring maintenance tune-up on your cooling system. Or perhaps you already have a maintenance agreement with a local HVAC business, in which case they’ll likely call to arrange your annual maintenance visit.
Professional Spring AC Maintenance Visit
The HVAC technician who comes to your home likely will perform the following tasks:
• If necessary, they’ll clean the coils in your AC or heat pump (both inside and outside). Dirt and dust can coat the outside condensing coil, while the inside evaporator coil is an inviting hideout for mold and bacteria. Either way, a dirty coil can reduce the efficiency of the heat-exchange process that’s at the heart of air conditioning technology.
• They’ll clean and lubricate moving parts in components such as the blower or air handler motor, compressor and capacitor, and inspect that equipment to make sure it’s not verging on failure.
• They’ll check electrical connections, cleaning terminals as needed.
• They’ll check the refrigerant level to make sure it meets manufacturer guidelines. If the level is low, they’ll check for any leaks, and then fill it to the correct level (after addressing any defects).
• Check airflow in the cooling system and adjust if necessary
• Inspect the condensate pan and drain for your AC or heat pump.
• In some spring maintenance checks, the technician also will inspect ductwork for any leaks or other defects.
• The technician should check the thermostat for proper operation and calibration. If you have an old-school manual thermostat, they may suggest that you upgrade to a modern programmable model. The resulting energy savings you obtain from programming temperature adjustments to fit your daily schedule will more than pay for that upgrade, in relatively short order.