AC preparation can extend the life of your air conditioner, lower your energy costs, and minimize repairs. AC companies get increasingly busy as summer temperatures climb. Why not beat the rush?
AC Preparation Is Easy
An annual AC inspection and maintenance visit is the ideal way to prepare your air conditioner for the intense summer heat, along with these three steps you can tackle on your own.
1) Clean or Replace Your AC Filter
Filter replacement or cleaning is a quick task that can make a big difference. Dust and dirt accumulate in dirty filters, restricting airflow and forcing your AC unit to work harder while still not achieving enough pressure to move cool air through the ducts efficiently. Plus, allergens and bacteria collect in dirty filters, harming the air quality in your home.
Does your air conditioning system use a reusable filter or a disposable filter?
Disposable HVAC Filters
You should replace your disposable filter every one to three months, depending on the air filter instructions and the manufacturer’s recommendations for your heating and air system. Replacement time also varies with the type of filter (such as flat-paneled, pleated media, or HEPA). Replace your filters more frequently if members of your household are sensitive to irritants in the air, such as mold spores or pet dander. Not sure if you’re using the correct replaceable filter for your home? Just ask us.
Reusable HVAC Filters
For reusable filters, again take a look at the manufacturer’s guidelines. You can clean the filter easily with a vacuum attachment or handheld vacuum. If you see a build-up of dust or debris, wash the filter with water or with a 1-to-1 ratio of distilled white vinegar and water. Rinse the filter in your sink or outside with a garden hose using a gentle spray setting. The next time you change or clean your filters, stand by an air vent, and you will happily feel the difference and be motivated to do it more often.
2) Flush the Condensate Line
You may have noticed a small pipe at the bottom of the indoor unit (air handler) of your central air conditioning system. As your handler cools the air, drops of moisture collect in a pan below the evaporator coil. They drain into that pipe (called the condensate pipe) and then out of your house. Walk around your home’s exterior and look a few inches off the ground for a pipe (most likely PVC) that drips water as your AC runs. You’ve found it! While you’re there, remove any leaves or weeds that might block the flow of water or keep it from moving away from your home’s foundation.
Back inside, turn off your air conditioning unit and take another look at the condensate pipe. Most drain lines will have a T-shaped pipe with a cover or cap. Using a funnel, pour a 1/2 cup of distilled white vinegar down the pipe.
Caution: Some people recommend using a bleach-and-water mixture, but bleach can damage copper pipes, PVC pipes, and the glue that holds the joints together. No need to risk that.
3) Clear Debris Around the Outdoor Unit
One of the most manageable tasks to prepare your air conditioner for summer is clearing the area surrounding your outdoor unit (the condenser). Look for anything blocking the flow of air. Start with any dead leaves or grass clippings, and clear the area of weeds. Remove dust and dirt with a handheld vacuum or shop vac with a soft brush attachment to break up the debris. If your dryer vent is nearby, you may notice dryer lint as well. Wipe down the fan grill with a damp cloth.
The U.S. Department of Energy recommends creating at least 2 feet of cleared space around the unit. Creating this margin includes removing any shrubs or trees you may have planted to keep your condenser out of view, along with anything you’re storing nearby, such as lawnmowers, wheelbarrows, or other large outdoor items.
While you’re out there, do a visual inspection of the unit. Do you see any leaking fluid? That’s certainly a time when you’ll want to give Fitch Services a call. Only a trained technician can repair the leak and add refrigerant (“charging the system”). We’ll make sure to meet the manufacturer’s specifications, which is the best way to maximize performance and efficiency.
Before starting any of these outdoor tasks where you’ll work near the condenser, turn off the power supply nearby, generally found within a few feet of the unit.
AC Preparation the Pros Will Do
We applaud all you do-it-yourselfers and happy homeowners who are staying on top of these tasks, but there are other maintenance tasks you’ll want a pro to handle.
Professional AC preparation visits include the following and more.
- Check the refrigerant levels in the condenser unit’s evaporator coils
- Thoroughly clean the condenser coils
- Look for leaks you may have missed and inspect all parts of the system
- Measure the airflow through your HVAC system
- Inspect the electrical components and make repairs as needed
- Check the belts for tightness and wear, and replace or repair as needed
- Optional: install a digital or smart thermostat
For professional AC preparation in Charlottesville, VA, count on Fitch Services for excellent service performed by our licensed, bonded, and insured technicians. We back our work with one of the industry’s best warranties for both parts and labor. Call us today at 434-296-9980 to schedule an appointment, and ask us about our affordable HVAC maintenance plans to keep your air conditioning and heating in tip-top shape all year long.