6 Crucial Areas to Check on Your Air Conditioning Before Summer
Instead of putting off an air conditioner check just before you need it, do it ahead of time to get it in shape for the cooling season. Tending to the normal homeowner maintenance chores associated with a central air conditioner helps it run more efficiently and prevents premature breakdowns. Before switching the thermostat to cool, be sure you check these six areas of your air conditioner or heat pump.
A clean air filter is crucial to the efficient and dependable operation of your air conditioner. Running it with a dirty filter increases energy bills, reduces indoor air quality (IAQ), and harms the system’s components. When the air filter is covered with dust, the air flow into the air handler slows. This increases the time it takes the air conditioner to cool your home, which causes wear and tear on your equipment.
A dirty air filter will introduce dust into the ductwork and the reduced airflow will allow it to settle. If the filter is completely blocked, your system may automatically shut off.
Once you change the air filter, look inside the air handler for dust accumulations. The air handler, also called the blower compartment, houses the fan motor and evaporator coil for the cooling system. If you see excess of dust inside turn off the circuit breaker and use a soft, dry cloth to clean the parts.
The evaporator coil is accessible in some air-conditioning systems. If yours is visible, examine it for dust and mold. A dirty coil slows down the cooling process, increasing your energy bills. Unless you’re comfortable cleaning and, make a note to ask your HVAC contractor to clean it for you during your summer maintenance visit.
The drain pan sits beneath the evaporator coil and if it’s dirty, cleans it. Drain pans are vulnerable to mold and biofilm growth and if you spot either, use a mixture of water and vinegar to disinfect the pan.
Walk through each room of your home to check the condition of the register covers. If they’re blocked with furniture or draperies, clear them so that they can blow the air unobstructed into the room. Dusty covers will slow the air flowing into the room. You can clean them using a soft, damp cloth or remove them to thoroughly scrub them. When they’re dry, replace them and make sure the louvers are fully open.
If you notice that some of the register covers or the areas near them are exceptionally dirty, you may have leaks in the ductwork leading to the room. If your ducts are visible and easy to access, check them for cracks or tears. Otherwise, schedule an appointment with your HVAC contractor who can test and repair them. HVAC pros use mechanized equipment to identify where ducts are leaking and the extent of the problems.
Ductwork leaks will lower IAQ and can even be a health hazard in the summer if you use a gas water heater or dryer that vents through the roof or crawlspace. If the leaks are large enough, insects or vermin can enter the ductwork where they will leave behind waste products that may be potential allergens.
Clear away any dead vegetation and debris from the area around the outdoor condenser. It needs ample airflow through it to cool the hot refrigerant that comes from your home. Hose off the fans and coil gently. Look for caked on dust or grass clippings. If you see either, you may need to scrub them with a soft brush. Check the insulation around the refrigerant line that runs into your home and note if it means replacing. Your HVAC pro can easily replace it.
The drainline for the air conditioner carries away the condensation that’s a normal part of the cooling process. If it’s outside, check to make sure that the line is clear and not clogged with leaves, bugs, algae, or mold. Unless the blockage is near the end of the pipe, you may need the HVAC technician to clean it for you. It’s important to check the pipe periodically to prevent costly flooding inside your home near the air handler.