Spring has finally arrived in the Central Ohio area in all its splendor, along with the requisite rain! I guess in our case, March showers will bring April and May flowers, thanks to the early onset of warm temperatures.
It’s time to start thinking about your home’s air conditioning equipment, and getting it ready for the summer season. Now is a great time to perform routine maintenance. We’ll cover some tips of things you can do yourself, and when you should call in a professional AC repair service.
I’ll be the first to admit that I’m usually glad when the cold Ohio winter is done. We were “blessed” with a mild winter, with not much snow, but thank goodness, the Groundhog didn’t see his shadow… and here we are, bulbs sprouting and all.
Of course, this means that inevitably, the summer heat and humidity of Ohio isn’t far behind.
Thanks to our current COVID-19 pandemic situation, you and your family will be faced with spending some of those upcoming warm days tucked inside your home together. Many of you are working at home, in some cases both parents. And the kids are doing school from home.
When the heat arrives, you’ll want your air conditioning system to work its cooling magic from the very first time you punch that thermostat to the first frost in the fall. We’ll cover some tips to help you get your AC ready.
In the HVAC contracting business, we always make use of our “slow” period of the spring and fall months to perform preventative maintenance on our customers’ heating and cooling systems, and head off trouble before the system is really needed during peak temperatures.
As a homeowner, there are some simple things you can do yourself to get your system ready.
Most modern central air systems will fire up the first time each spring. Without routine maintenance and tender loving care, there’s no way you can know if your AC system will operate at optimal levels during the summer heat.
Start with the Indoor AC Components
Let’s start this routine exam with the thermostat set to the “off” position, and the temperature set to 80 degrees. Check the following components:
VISUALLY INSPECT THE THERMOSTAT
If you have one of those old, round analog thermostats, or it’s simply outdated, you might be able to save energy and money by installing a newer, programmable WiFi thermostat.
Check for obvious leaks, especially at joints where sections of the ductwork are joined together. Leaky ductwork can be a source of cooling loss or cause the system to suck dusty air in, causing your HVAC filters to clog faster.
LOOK AT AIR VENTS
Another part to visually inspect are your air vents or registers. Remove any obvious blocks, such as drapes, furniture or toys. You can even pull off the vent covers to check for dust inside, and using an upholstery brush, gently vacuum to remove that dust. (It’s not as thorough as a duct cleaning, but it’s a good start).
ENSURE THE DRAIN LINE ISN’T BLOCKED
There is a small drain line near your system’s cooling coil (usually mounted above the furnace). Check to be sure the line isn’t clogged and the end is directed to a floor drain.
Carefully pour about a cup of chlorine bleach down the air conditioning drain line, then follow with about a gallon of water. That should suffice to keep your drain clear of mold and fungus for the summer. Those drain lines get clogged when there is an excessive build-up of dirt in that indoor coil.
AIR FILTER CHANGE
This is a good time to change the HVAC filter (also called a “furnace filter”). Change it every couple of months, more often if yours clogs frequently. In all cases, follow the manufacturers’ directions.
Check your home’s electrical breaker box, frequently located in the basement as well, for any tripped breakers. The breakers, which are a type of switch that “trips” off during an electrical malfunction, should be marked for which ones control the electric for the furnace and AC.
Most gas furnaces have a switch near the furnace that allows you to cut power for servicing the equipment. Check the switch to ensure it’s up or “on.”
OUTDOOR AC COMPONENTS
Let’s move on to the simple maintenance tasks you can perform on your outdoor AC components.
VISUALLY INSPECT THE OUTDOOR CONDENSER
This is the unit that consumers typically think of as their air conditioner – a metal box that is mounted on a slab or on a shelf attached to the house. It’s usually covered by a wire mesh or a grille, has electrical and coolant lines running to it, and a fan mounted inside the top of the unit.
Trim any organic matter that has grown up around the unit, especially grass, tree or shrub branches, flowers or bulbs. Also remove any trash or other debris that may have attached itself. If anything is blocking the airflow around the unit, performance can suffer (and even cause failure of the unit).
Check for any missing panels or covers as well; they protect electrical connections from the elements.
These lines are usually copper and covered with foam or other insulation (and are often the target of theft). Proper insulation is needed by the system to operate efficiently. Missing or damaged insulation could indicate damage to the copper lines, potentially leaking refrigerant.
OUTDOOR ELECTRICAL WIRING
Check to ensure any outdoor visible wiring shows no wear or tear, especially missing insulation or the wires, or an exposed wire. If you can see bare copper, please turn off the breaker and call a professional before you use the unit.
HOW OLD IS YOUR AC?
Air conditioning equipment has a recommended life span. Even when properly maintained, there are many moving parts and it will eventually wear out, leak coolant, have electrical problems, or dozens of other potential issues. If your system is older than about 10 years, consider replacing it before the cooling season arrives.
According to the U.S. federal government’s Energy.gov website, you can save 20% to 40% of your cooling energy costs by replacing your system with a newer, more efficient model. If your system is that old, it’s just a matter of (a short) time before it’s going to need a repair that costs more than 50% of its replacement cost.
FIRST AC START UP OF THE SEASON
After checking the indoor and outdoor equipment we discussed earlier, and the system passed, you can move on to actually turning the system on for the first time.
- SET THE TEMP Switch the thermostat to “AC” mode and set it to a temperature lower than the current room temperature.
- LISTEN AND OBSERVE After the unit turns on, venture outside to listen and watch the fan. Listen for unusual noises – particularly grinding noises (indicating that something is rubbing or dragging) or a humming sound (indicating the motor won’t start and turn, or is jammed).
- RUN THE AC Allow the AC to run for about 10-15 minutes or longer, and check to see if the indoor temperature is actually cooling down the inside of the home. Using an inexpensive digital thermometer is helpful, but you can feel with your hand to determine if the air coming from the vents is cold.
If you encountered any issues during your DIY inspection of the components of your home’s air conditioning, you should call a professional Air Conditioning Contractor for pre-season service on the equipment. There are some relatively simple things you can do yourself, but for any real testing or repairs hire the pros.
Of course, the very last thing you’ll want for your family on those typical hot and muggy Ohio summer days is for the air conditioning to crash and burn. Here in Ohio, when your AC is idle for more than half the year, routine maintenance by a trained and certified professional is an absolute necessity.
Consider enrolling in one of our HVAC Scheduled Maintenance programs and save on every visit, including parts discounts, first-in-line service, and more.
Now, before the temperatures get into the 80’s and 90’s, is the ideal time to get your central air conditioning system ready for the summer heat.
WE ARE COLUMBUS OHIO’S HEATING & COOLING EXPERTS
In continuous operation since 1962, our expertise goes beyond just the mechanicals of your HVAC system. We’re pretty handy when it comes to ductwork and system-wide maintenance as well. For top-notch service keeping your home’s heating and cooling system running efficiently and your family breathing clean, filtered air, contact Dor-Mar today.
To determine if installing an affordable Ultraviolet-C lighting system is right for you, contact our friendly customer service team and we’ll arrange for a free evaluation and price quote.
Our team offers a wide array of routine maintenance and emergency services for your heating and cooling system, allowing your family to breathe fresh, safe, clean air and be comfortable year-round. We also offer a number of add-ons to your HVAC equipment that can improve your home’s Indoor Air Quality, such as electrostatic air filters, whole-house humidifiers, duct cleaning, Ultraviolet-C lighting systems, and more.
Schedule an appointment for HVAC system troubleshooting or maintenance with us today by using our online contact form, or call one of our seven neighborhood offices listed below. We pride ourselves on our customer-focused service, and our reviews show it.
Dor-Mar…Your Climate Hero!
Please note: neither the Centers for Disease Control(CDC) or the World Health Organization (WHO), nor the manufacturer of our UV-C Devices have officially announced whether UV-C kills the current strain of Corona Virus (COVID-19)., we urge you to err on the side of caution until we have a definitive answer, and take other measures to prevent the acquisition or spread of this virus.