There might be snow on the ground across much of the U.S., but Punxsutawney Phil didn’t see his shadow this year.
That can only mean one thing: An early spring is upon us! And before you know it, those warm April breezes will turn into sweltering rays of summer sunshine.
Want to make sure your home stays comfortable all season long? There are a few simple steps you can take to keep your air conditioner system running at top capacity.
Don’t wait until you’re melting in the middle of July. Read on to learn the easy tricks that can help you keep (your) cool.
1. Change the Filter
It’s one of those steps that everyone means to remember but always winds up forgetting. Yet, changing your air filters on a regular basis can be the single most important step you take to extend the life of your unit.
Despite its simple appearance, your A/C filter has a very significant purpose. That little screen traps dirt, dust and other debris from your air. Over time, these materials form a layer on the filter that weakens its efficiency. As a result, your unit has work much harder to keep your home cool.
Not only does this cause more wear and tear to your system, but it also results in higher utility bills! The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommends changing your filters every three months at the minimum. Get in the habit of checking yours regularly and change them as soon as they start to look dingy.
2. Remove Debris Around Your Unit
Yes, your A/C condenser unit is outside. No, it isn’t a landscaping feature. It shouldn’t be covered in twigs, leaves, tree limbs or grass clippings.
Letting that debris collect around your system can impede its airflow. To make up for the imbalance, the unit has to work even harder, adding to its overall wear. To play it safe, remove any growth around your unit and pull back any weeds that appear to be inching toward it.
As you’re pruning, don’t forget to trim back any nearby trees or bushes. Try to put at least three feet of space between your unit and all vegetation.
3. Clean the Condenser Coils
Another area of your outdoor unit that can easily become clogged with debris? The condenser coils!
It’s important to carefully check yours for any debris that might have gotten stuck in there over time. Yet, before you do so, make sure to turn off the power to your condenser unit. Electric shock is a very real danger when examining your A/C units, which is why it’s always best to hire a pro to take care of routine maintenance checks.
Leaving the power off, remove the top and side panels of your unit, keeping all wires intact. Use a basic refrigerator coil brush to clean the coils inside the unit. As you do so, take special caution not to bend the fins. If the coils still look dirty, a quick swipe with a handheld vacuum can help remove built-up grime.
4. Clear the A/C Drain Lines
Head outside and take a good look at your A/C unit. Do you notice the small dripping line located on the outside? It’s easy to miss, but this is the condensate drain, and it’s pretty important.
This drain removes the condensation produced by your unit’s evaporator coil. If the line gets dirty and stays that way, it can accumulate algae and mold. When these clog the drain, it won’t be long before you feel it in your home. A compromise A/C drain line can result in high humidity levels, musty smells, and even interior water damage.
To clean yours, turn off the power first. In most cases, a little suction is all you need to clear the drain. You can normally use a shop vac to pull the clog out of the drain opening. Allow it to run for at least a minute, then check the canister to see if the clog came out.
Your next step is to locate the access point along the drain line. This usually looks like a T-shaped vent with a PVC cover on it. Take off the cover and flush the drain using a little distilled vinegar, peroxide or hot water mixed with dish soap. After the solution has sat for 30 minutes, you can flush the pipe with water.
Again, due to the power issue and advanced technical nature of the work, it’s best to leave this step in the hands of a trained HVAC technician.
5. Install a Smart Thermostat
Your A/C unit works hard for you. Want to give it a little break?
If so, it’s time to install a smart thermostat, like the ones from Nest. These intelligent devices are designed to program themselves around your daily habits. Leaving to go to work for the day? They’ll bump up the A/C a few degrees when you’re out of the house, then have it nice and cool for you when you walk back in the door.
These little adjustments can equal some pretty big savings, and they can extend the life of your unit. The first smart thermostat to be ENERGY STAR-certified, a Nest device can also make your home more energy-efficient. This makes them a smart investment for any future-focused homeowner!
6. Add Attic Insulation
You wouldn’t just open your windows and toss dollar bills into the wind, would you?
Why, then would you let precious air escape through your roof?
If your attic isn’t properly insulated, your A/C system has to work even harder to maintain a comfortable temperature level inside your home. That’s because, during the summer, all your cool air is traveling upward and leaking out from there. The opposite occurs in the winter, when warm air makes the same escape move.
Take the time to properly insulate your attic, even if you only use it to store your off-season Christmas decorations. If yours has existing insulation, check the R-value of that insulation to determine its ability to resist heat transfer. It should have an R-value of 30 as a minimum.
While you can check this value yourself, an HVAC expert will have tools on hand to do so in a second. Adequate insulation can prevent air leakage, improve the performance of your A/C unit, and keep your home comfortable all year round!
7. Tighten the Belts
No, we’re not talking about dieting!
Inside of your A/C unit, you can find a series of belts designed to keep the fans and other machinery running at an optimal speed. Over time, these belts can loosen.
If they get too old and worn, they won’t do their job, which can cause your unit to freeze. That’s why it’s always smart to keep a close eye on them. If you can tighten or replace a belt as soon as it begins to look worn, you can save a ton of money on massive repairs down the road.
Because there’s power involved in this step too, it’s another one that’s best left in the hands of a competent professional!
8. Invest in Routine Maintenance
Finally, one of the easiest and most important ways you can keep your A/C unit performing well is to invest in regular preventative maintenance services. Having the right team come to your home on a regular basis to check your systems and address any issues is key to catching problems as soon as they occur. This way, you don’t have to contend with costly repairs down the road because you missed a simple sign months before.
Take your time and research the most reliable HVAC team in your area. The company you chose should be licensed and certified to perform the work they’re entrusted to do. Find technicians that make you feel comfortable, informed and capable of understanding your system and its ongoing needs.
Help Your Air Conditioner System Keep Its Cool
Your air conditioner system is one of those household appliances that you don’t really think about until it conks out on you. Yet, it doesn’t have to be this way!
When you spend time performing the steps detailed above, you’ll begin to better understand your unit and how to maintain it. Looking for an A/C company you can trust? You’ve come to the right place.
From A/C installations to repairs and maintenance, we do it all. We have more than 20 years of experience serving the Bay Area, and we’d love to add you to our long list of satisfied, repeat customers.
Contact us today to learn more about the services we provide, or book an appointment now to get started immediately!