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Preparing Your Home for the Summer Heat: The Ultimate AC Maintenance Checklist

Monday, April 29, 2024

Primary Blog/HVAC/Preparing Your Home for the Summer Heat: The Ultimate AC Maintenance Checklist

The sun is inching higher in the sky, warming the earth, and we know that another summer is just around the corner. This is the time when homeowners start running ceiling fans and hope that the AC unit still works from last summer. AC is about comfort, sure, but as the years go by, you realize it's also about the reliability of those cold gusts that help turn sweltering afternoons into cool comfort.

The last thing you want is for your AC to fail on the hottest day of the year. To ensure you can rely on your system, we've put together the ultimate AC maintenance checklist. Whether you're a diligent seasonal veteran or a first-time homeowner, this comprehensive guide will walk you through every step to keep your AC running smoothly, efficiently, and cost-effectively.

1. Examining the Exterior Unit

Begin your AC checkup by inspecting the outside component. Remove any covers or lids used for winterization. Check for visible signs of damage, such as rust, corrosion, or bent fins. If your unit is a heat pump, make sure it's clean and free from debris. Clear any plants, weeds, or debris within a two-foot radius to ensure proper airflow. Remember, the outside component should have enough room to breathe—restricting airflow can reduce efficiency and lead to more serious problems.

2. Outdoor Unit Clean-Up

Now that the outside is tidy, it's time to get deep into cleaning. Turn off the power to the unit before doing anything else. Using a hose, gently wash down the exterior. Avoid using a power washer, as the force can bend the delicate fins.

The fins are vital for the AC's heat exchange process, so be especially careful around them. If they are clogged or have a noticeable amount of dust, you can use a fin comb to straighten them. Be gentle, or else you might accidentally make the problem worse. The same process applies to any grass clippings, gunk, or dander caught in the coils.

3. Air Filter Check and Replacement

The air filter is the front line of defense against debris that could reduce air quality and damage your AC. It should be checked every month, and depending on the type of filter and household conditions, it might need replacement or cleaning that often.

A clean filter helps maintain the energy efficiency of your home. Improved air quality means fewer allergens and dust particles circulated throughout the house. If your filter is the one-and-done type, be sure to replace it—you'll breathe easier, and it'll save you from potential issues down the line.

4. Thermostat Assessment

A thermostat is essentially the brain of your HVAC system, so it's crucial that it's in top condition. Test to make sure it accurately controls the system. If there’s a variance from the actual room temperature, recalibrate it or consider installing a smart thermostat that learns about your heating and cooling habits.

Remember, the location of the thermostat matters. It should be on an interior wall, away from windows and doors that can cause false readings. A consistent environment is the best way to avoid unnecessary work on your AC or heater.

5. Check Ductwork for Leaks and Obstructions

Your ducts are the circulatory system of your home's heating and cooling. They must be kept in prime condition for efficiency and air quality. Start by looking for any visible damage or obstructions, and then check for leaks.

Leaky ducts can cause you to lose up to 20-30% of the air that moves through your system. This not only increases your utility bills but also affects the power of your entire home's HVAC setup. Special duct sealant or mastic can help fix these issues effectively. If you're unsure about how to handle this, it's one of the best times to call a professional.

6. Monitor the Electrical Components

Safety first. Make sure the power to the unit is off at the source before doing any work. Inspect the electrical lines and connections for signs of wear or damage, including the contractor and capacitor. Replace any damaged wires and tighten any loose connections.

Electrical issues can not only be a burden on your wallet but a serious threat to your home and family. Those quick checks can make all the difference between a safe summer and a disaster.

7. Clean the Condensate Drain Line

Algae, mold, and dust can accumulate in the condensate drain line, causing a clog. A clogged drain can lead to leaks, water damage, and even humidity problems in your home. To clear the line, use a mixture of bleach and water or a shop vac to remove the buildup.

Maintaining the condensate line is usually a simple process that can be done yearly, or more if you live in a humid climate. This small step can prevent big problems that can not only ruin your summer but also your home.

8. Professional Check-Up

For the more extensive elements of the AC system, nothing beats the input of a professional. They've seen it all and are trained to handle your system with care. An annual inspection is a wise investment that can help avoid costly repairs and keep your system running efficiently for years to come.

During a professional check-up, expect a complete assessment of the unit, including levels of refrigerant, cleaning that's impossible for most homeowners to do, and any necessary repairs before you have to rely on it during sweltering temperatures.

9. Plan for the Future

AC units have a lifespan, and while we want to maintain them to prolong use, we also need to be realistic about when to anticipate repairs or replacements. Generally, HVAC systems last about 12-15 years. If your unit is older, it might be more cost-effective to replace it with a more energy-efficient model.

Start budgeting for eventual upgrades or repairs now, so you're not caught off guard. Consider the energy efficiency of newer models and how they can save on your monthly utility bill and transfer the risk with full parts and labor warranty options. Planning ahead can make all the difference in terms of comfort, budget, and peace of mind.

​By following these steps and making AC maintenance part of your regular household routine, you're not only ensuring a cool and comfortable home but also protecting a significant investment. Remember, your AC works hard to keep you comfortable—return the favor with a summer season of reliability and cool sophistication.

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Hi, I'm Derek Cole

GM, Simmons One Hour Heating and Air

With a career spanning over two decades in the HVAC industry, Derek Cole has climbed his way to becoming General Manager of Simmons One Hour. His impressive journey was recognized by News magazine who awarded him Top 40 under 40 honors, as well as Entrepreneur Magazine's Franchise Player Spotlight feature. Notable networks such as CBS, FOX and NBC have also featured him discussing home comfort tips on their programs while publications like Huffington Post and Bloomberg Business highlight his success story with One Hour Heating & Air Conditioning® .

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