Early May brings glorious weather to the Washington, DC area, but we all know that the oppressive heat and humidity of summer are right around the corner. Before you reach to switch on that air conditioner, there are a few Spring Maintenance steps you should complete to ensure your family’s comfort throughout the summer and extend the life of your unit.
Here’s what to look for before starting your A/C for the first time after a long, hard winter, according to Angieslist.com:
Your outdoor air conditioner unit
- Inspect the outdoor unit panels. These panels are designed to enclose the electrical connections and must be in place to protect you and your system. If you’re missing panels or if a panel is misaligned, it could cause potential risks in operation. Call a qualified technician to assess the situation before starting your system.
- Remove any condenser covers, coil blankets or lids. Remove any outdoor winter covers before starting your air conditioner. Otherwise, you could severely damage your system.
- Repair or replace any damaged pipe insulation. The suction line (the larger copper pipe) helps to supply cool refrigerant back to the compressor in the outdoor unit. If it has damaged insulation, it could cause a loss of required cooling for the outdoor unit, which could damage the system and cause energy loss. Damage to the foam insulation can be caused by sun rot, freezing water trapped in the foam or winter animals looking for shelter or food. Check the copper pipe size for insulation. Note: Only the larger line needs insulation. Do not insulate the smaller copper line.
- Remove any debris from the unit. Remove debris from the coil and surrounding area. Make sure not to pack mulch around the base of the unit. If you’re using any clever unit to disguise your air conditioner, make sure there is open air flow. My family learned this lesson the hard way last summer. Our outside unit collected a ton of leaves over the years. This restricted the airflow and prevented the coils from cooling off. Eventually, the unit shut itself down to prevent further damage. On a sweltering hot July day, the A/C shut down and sent an error code to the thermostat. Frustrating! Our HVAC technician came out and diagnosed the problem right away. He was able to clean condenser screen and get the A/C working as good as new for around $150, when we feared a much larger bill. He also suggested that we periodically spray the condenser unit with a garden hose to keep the inside clean and air flowing freely.
Indoor air handler unit
- Replace your indoor air filters. Be sure to pay attention to air flow directions on both the system and the filter. They need to both be pointing in the right direction.
- Check the coil drainage hose. Since the coil’s temperature is lower than the surrounding air, water will condense on the coil and drip into the tray below. This condensation needs to flow to a drain, or the tray will fill up and flood the unit or potentially spill water into the basement. Check that the line is in the proper place, attached and will drain to the appropriate location.
- Clean the supply vents and return grills. Make sure that both the supply and return air grills and vents are open and free of debris. Use a vacuum to remove any accumulated pet hair or dust. In general, cleaning all grills at the beginning of every season is a good idea.
- Turn it on and make sure it works. After going through the check list, wait for a nice, hot day when you have extra time, and check the air coming out of the indoor vents the first few minutes after starting the unit. Then check every few hours throughout the day.
If no air is coming out or if the air isn’t cool, immediately turn the system off at the thermostat. Go through the check list one more time. If the problem persists, call a qualified HVAC contractor.
Following these tips can save you money and heartache in the long run. As the old saying goes, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!”
Have a great day!
Jennell Alexander, Realtor, MBA
Heymann Realty, LLC