Most of North America is nearing that lull in the seasons when they can achieve a relief from heating the house and instead enjoy the crisp cool air of Spring coming through the windows to whisk away the remnants of Winter. Many people view this as the best time of year, especially after being mostly domesticated and battling cold, snow, and ice for the past 4-5 months. Be aware though, the Spring can fly by fast and before you know it the humming of the air-conditioner will be a welcome reprieve from the hot and humid temperatures.
The Spring season raises a good question – is it more about digging out from a brutal Winter or preparing for a pleasant Summer? For the answer you really need to look no further than your home’s air-conditioner. The outside unit likely endured a brutal pounding from constant exposure to cold temperatures over the Winter so it needs to be both maintained from the past and prepped for the future to enjoy efficient operation in the months to come.
Cleaning the Outdoor Central A/C Unit
Whether you have a central air or a split-duct system the outside unit needs to be cleaned before jumping in to the main Summer cooling season. The compressor and condenser sit in this outside unit and will freeze up and have restricted air flow if not cleared of debris and buildup. First turn off the power to the A/C then remove the outer case to allow access into the heart of the unit. Use a vacuum to suck up the debris from the fins and then spray them off with water from the garden hose.
Clean the Indoor Unit
The outside part of the air-conditioner essentially creates the cold air while the inside unit delivers it. It’s equally important to clean the inside unit so that dirt and debris which settled in the Winter aren’t distributed throughout the house every time the A/C runs. The filter should be changed at the beginning of the cooling season (as well as frequently throughout the Summer) and the blower housing should be vacuumed of any dirt and debris.
Do Some Test Runs
Kids and rodents as well as the environment and just old age could leave the air-conditioner at a very unpredictable status over the offseason. You should check any electrical connections as well as duct registers, circuit breakers, and more before starting up the A/C. Even if it powers on without a hitch, run the air-conditioner a few times before it is really needed so that you can inspect if any airflow is lost through damaged ducts, if condensation is forming in the drip pan (as it should), and just if the unit is operating at it should in general.
Get a Professional Annual Inspection
It’s easy to spot debris when cleaning but harder for a DIYer to know if the internal components of the air-conditioner are in good working order. It’s recommended to get an annual inspection before the hot Summer months first of all for peace of mind in knowing that the system will function but also for tasks such as:
- Cleaning the 3 C’s – compressor, condenser, and coils.
- Checking refrigerant levels – recommended by only a certified tech.
- Inspection of all wiring – testing and evaluation of both hidden and exposed connections.
- Checking the cycle on and cycle off processes – for safety and running efficiency.
- Calibrating the thermostat – to avoid unnecessary cycling and accurate temperature readings.
- Lubricate moving parts – fans and blowers build up with debris.
- Clean drains and tubes – avoid backup and potential mold growth in the utility room.
In some cases an annual inspection of your HVAC system by a certified technician is required in order to keep in good standing with the manufacturer’s warranty. In this instance an inspection becomes a great investment.