Did you know that it costs homeowners in America about $11 billion to cool their homes using an air conditioner unit? The warmer months spell huge spending on utility bills, but there are ways to save.
One way to save is knowing when to turn on the AC and when to turn it off or increase the temperature. Another is by making sure everything is running appropriately to prevent damages. Any damage could cause further loss of energy and money.
Take a look at our summer and spring AC tips below to help prepare your unit. Before you do any work, though, turn off the power as you’ll be dealing with wiring. You can turn on the AC after you’ve gone through the following checklist.
1. Inspect the Outdoor Unit
You should inspect the whole unit, but let’s start with the outdoor condenser unit. Check the panels outside and see if they’re intact and in their proper places.
If there’s a missing or a misaligned panel, there might already be some damage to your system. It also increases risks for further damages to the equipment and also to the people inside your home.
Don’t attempt to fix this yourself, though; call a professional to make an accurate assessment. While they’re there, you might as well have them check the whole system to get your AC unit ready for spring and summer.
If everything seems to be okay on that front, however, you can move on to the other steps.
2. Remove the Covers Protecting the Coil
Homeowners usually cover the outdoor coil during fall or the colder months. This is to protect the coils and provide proper insulation. However, it prevents proper heat transfer during the warmer months.
If you do this, make sure to remove any cover before turning on your AC. Failing to do so can cause extensive damages even if you only turn it on for a short time.
Some risks include trapping the moisture inside, causing rot and mold to form. It’s not even recommended for use in winter as it might invite rodents and other animals. It will make for a warm and cozy place for animals seeking shelter from the harsh cold.
3. Check the Outdoor Electrical Wiring
Next, check the electrical wiring in the outdoor unit and make sure no part has any damage or wear. If there are any exposed or frayed wires, you need to repair or replace them first.
This will cause electrical shorts, which increase the risks of house fires. This also exposes the wiring to the moisture outside, allowing it to seep into the unit itself.
Electrical shorts can also damage some components by causing tripping breakers and intermittent operations.
Don’t attempt to turn on the AC if you notice some wear on the wiring to prevent any further damage. Call a technician right away as this issue is quite complex and could be dangerous for an untrained homeowner.
4. Clean the Outdoor Unit
If everything seems okay, it’s time to clean the outdoor coil. There will likely be debris, trash, and vegetation around it. As coils have an important job of transferring heat, any items against the coil will limit this process.
You’ll need to remove the protective grills to access the coils. Once you’ve removed them, use a soft brush on a vacuum attachment or a refrigerator coil brush to clean it from the outside. Use gentle strokes and be careful in doing so as you might bend the fins or damage the coils.
Next, clean the coils from the inside of the unit using the vacuum. You may also have to use a commercial coil cleaner or a hose with a trigger-style nozzle to further clean. You’ll also have to be careful not to spray the electrical components and the fan.
5. Check the Pipe Insulation for Any Damage
The refrigerant pipes usually have insulation covering to prevent them from losing energy. The insulation is susceptible to damages caused by water freezing in the foam itself. It’s also vulnerable to sun rot and animals looking for shelter from the cold.
If this foam insulation has damage, it could lead to a loss of cooling. You’ll lose energy, but it could also cause further damages to the whole system.
It’s quite easy to replace the insulation, though, and it should be available in your local hardware store. Check the size of your large copper line; note that the smaller copper line doesn’t need insulation.
6. Inspect the Parts of the Inner Unit
After making sure everything is okay on the outside, it’s time to move on to the inner unit. First, you could check the thermostat to see if it can still keep up. If it’s too old, you may need to replace it for a more efficient model.
Electric bills soar during summertime, so you’ll need as much help as you can get from your appliances. If you’re buying a new one, look for a programmable thermostat. This will help you save money and energy.
Check any exposed ductwork for damage, as well. Worn out areas can also cause energy loss in the home, racking up your bills further. It also lessens the cooling efficiency of the air conditioning system.
You should also check the circuits to make sure all electrical connections are on.
7. Clean the Air Vents and Return Grills
Go around your house and check the vents as well. Ensure that nothing is blocking them. Furniture, clutter, drapes, and such blocking the vents can block the airflow, which then leads to ineffective cooling and other damages.
While you’re at it, clean the vents as well as the return air grills of dust as well. Stuff like pet hair might have accumulated; use a vacuum cleaner to get rid of both.
Your house might also have separate systems for heating and cooling and supply grills for winter and summer. If it does, then you might have covered the cooling vents during the cooler months to prevent drafts. If so, make sure to remove it before turning the AC on to prevent damage to the whole system.
8. Check the Drain Line and the Coil Drainage Hose
The drain lines can get clogging due to dirt and build-up of muck and other substances. This can cause extensive damages to your home as it causes water to flow back and overflow. Repairs will be expensive, so it’s better to prevent it from happening or to clean it on a regular schedule.
Keep the drain line clear by pouring a cup of bleach down the opening and then rinsing it with a gallon of water. This will kill off mold, algae, and other growths inside the drain. Vinegar and water are also effective if you don’t want to use bleach.
Make sure the drainage line is also in the proper place; ensure it’s attached and it’s draining to the right place.
9. Replace the Air Filters
This is also a good time to change the air filters. In general, it’s recommended to replace it before winter or summer. You should also replace it every 3 months or as recommended by the manufacturer.
A dirty filter can cause all sorts of problems in the unit aside from preventing the AC to cool the room/s in a proper way. It can also cause allergens to build up in the system, jeopardizing the health of the family members with allergies.
It also reduces the efficiency of the unit and hastens the wear and tear of the unit. It might cause ice to build up on the coils. It allows the cold air to flow out, but if it’s dirty, the air stays inside and lowers the internal temperature.
10. Turn on the AC to See If It Works
If you’ve ensured nothing is wrong or if you did the appropriate steps to restore your unit, you may now turn it on to check if it’s still in working order. Test it during a warm day to get an accurate feel of its cooling efficiency.
Check if there’s cool air coming out of the registers. If there’s no air or if it’s not cold, there may be something wrong with the unit. Listen for any unusual sounds, rumbling, or such. If you think something is wrong, turn off the AC and call a professional.
Go outside, as well, to see if there’s any unusual sound and if the fan is running in the condenser. Check to see the air coming out on top of the unit; it should be hot as the AC is removing the warm air from your house.
Contact a Professional
Other tasks, such as checking the refrigerant levels, are best left to the professionals. If you need help with the preventive maintenance of your AC or if you noticed that something is wrong after you turn on the AC, contact us today to set a schedule.