There’s more to making sure your air conditioner is ready for summer than by turning it on to see if it works. It’s a little like going on a road trip with low tire pressure. Your car may run and you’ll get down the road, but you’ll lose fuel efficiency and the tires will wear quickly. The same is true with your cooling system. It may run, but you could pay more in energy bills and repair costs later.
Before hot weather approaches, check these air conditioning components:
• Air filter. A dirty air filter affects the entire system and if it needs changing, do it before you turn the system on. When too much dust accumulates on the filter, the airflow through the air handler slows, increasing the running time for the cooling system. Dirty filters also allow more dust into the air handler, which will cover the components inside it, like the motor, electronic switches and the evaporator coil.
• Evaporator coil. If you can access it, check the condition of the evaporator coil, which normally sits above the drain pan. Use a soft brush or cloth to remove any accumulation of dust. Sometimes mold and biofilms grow on the evaporator coil. Unless you’re confident about your ability to clean it without damaging it, contact your HVAC contractor for help. A damaged coil is difficult, if not impossible to fix, and it’s expensive to replace.
• Drain pan and drainpipe. Use a wet cloth to remove any dust and grime inside it. If you find mold, add a few drops of vinegar to the cloth and scrub it.
• Outdoor condenser. Remove any dead vegetation and debris from a four-foot area around the condenser to promote optimal airflow through it. Inspect the coil and fins to determine the extent of dust or grass clippings on it. Use a gentle flow of water from the hose to knock down the dust. If it has caked-on mud or grass clippings, use an approved coil cleaner found at home improvement centers.
• Register covers. Clean register covers promote better indoor air quality. Inspect each one and use a soft cloth to remove any dust accumulations. If there’s a buildup, unscrew the covers and gently wash them in the sink. If a register cover seems excessively dusty, it might indicate a leak in the duct that serves that room. If you can reach it, look over its duct. Otherwise, call your HVAC contractor for testing and sealing. Loose or ripped ducts increase energy bills substantially and quickly degrade indoor air quality.
These inspections, along with a system check performed by an HVAC contractor, will reward you with lower energy bills, better comfort and fewer repairs this summer.