Summer is a season of warm weather, endless sunshine, and unforgettable activities. During the summer, few things feel more refreshing than stepping into a perfectly air-conditioned home after a long day in the heat. Before cranking on the AC, however, it is important to prepare your system for the upcoming months of usage. According to the Department of Energy (DOE), operating your home air conditioner can account for up to 70% of seasonal utility costs.

Moreover, the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) reports that air conditioning accounts for around 12% of annual energy costs. Taking the time to make sure your system is up to speed can make your air conditioner more efficient and reduce the likelihood of excessive wear and tear. But what steps can homeowners take to get the most out of their AC systems? A look at these tips for summer AC preparation can help you maximize the performance of one of the season’s most important appliances.

1. Schedule Air Conditioner Maintenance Early

The first step in preparing your air conditioner for the summer is to schedule the recommended seasonal inspection and maintenance. Experts recommend scheduling maintenance twice per year. These maintenance sessions usually take place directly before summer and winter prior to drastic changes in temperature. During a servicing session, an HVAC professional can inspect all internal components to ensure that your AC system is in peak condition.

For example, the HVAC professional may inspect and clean the system’s indoor evaporator coils or outdoor condenser coils. The technician can also check refrigerant levels and refill this fluid as needed. Insufficient refrigerant can cause your system to overheat and lead to premature shutdowns.

Since handling refrigerant is not a safe DIY project, it is important to allow a professional to ensure optimal levels of this chemical before the busiest time of the season. An HVAC technician has the training and equipment needed to check the coils, coolant, and other components without damaging your system. Keeping up with preventative maintenance can help you avoid potential breakdowns or AC emergencies on the hottest days of the year.

2. Address Potential Problems Promptly

If you have kept up with recommended maintenance but still notice problems, contact an HVAC technician for AC troubleshooting. Even if you had the system serviced during the spring, air conditioner parts can still wear out or experience inefficiency during heatwaves. Common signs that indicate that your system may have issues can include the following:

  • Higher energy costs without increased AC usage
  • Unusual sounds or smells
  • Constant short cycling
  • Ice on the outdoor unit
  • Indoor unit blows hot or warm air

An HVAC professional can address these problems before they result in permanent damage. For example, ice on the outdoor unit can lead to damage due to restrictions in airflow. Whether the ice comes from dirty coils or insufficient coolant, a technician can diagnose the issue and efficiently restore your system to excellent working order.

3. Change the Air Filter

Changing the air filter is another simple tip to prepare the AC for the summer. Dirty or clogged air filters can make your system work harder by obstructing airflow. This can increase energy consumption and cause a spike in your utility bills, and it can also make your system wear out prematurely. Dirty filters can also increase the number of contaminants in your home by blowing particles into the air each time you turn on the system. Experts recommend changing the filter at least once every 90 days.

As a rule of thumb, you should change the filter each time you start up the AC for the season. If you have concerns about the effectiveness of your filter, ask an HVAC professional about whether high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters are compatible with your AC model. Any filter chosen needs to be the right size with an appropriate MERV (minimum efficiency reporting value) rating.

4. Check the AC Vents

In addition to changing your filter, it is also important to inspect your air conditioner’s vents. Over time, unwanted particles like dust, pet fur, spider webs, dirt, and debris can accumulate on HVAC vents. Even a small layer of dirt can reduce the effectiveness of your cooling system. Dirt and dust on the vents can also increase the likelihood of airborne particles floating in the air and lower the indoor air quality of your home. This can have a negative effect on the health and well-being of individuals with allergies or respiratory illnesses. In addition, furniture and other household items can block vents or registers and hinder the cooling process.

5. Monitor the Outdoor Condenser Unit

Your air conditioner is more than its indoor components; you also need to keep the outdoor unit in mind. This part of your air conditioner is known as the condenser. The condenser is important because once the indoor unit pulls heat from your home, the warm air goes into the condenser for release into the air outside. If disuse has caused the condenser to become clogged with dirt and debris, the AC will not perform as effectively.

Remove any tree limbs, twigs, leaves, moss, weeds, plant overgrowth, or buildup that can potentially obstruct the condenser. Clearing away this blockage can improve airflow so that your cooling system works smoothly. If possible, leave a four-foot radius around the outdoor condenser unit.

Some outdoor condensers sit on an elevated concrete or rubber pad anchored slightly away from the house. The purpose of this pad is to reduce operational vibrations, make sure the unit is level, and elevate the unit above groundwater or rain puddles. Over time, however, exposure to harsh weather or the elements can damage this pad. Make a note of any signs that indicate condenser pad damage. These signs may include cracks, crumbling, or a sunken appearance. Finally, ask your technician to fix any bent fins within the condenser. Otherwise, damaged fins can prevent the condenser from properly dispersing the heat from the AC system.

6. Check the HVAC Thermostat

Summer is also the perfect time to check your HVAC thermostat. Without a functional thermostat, you may find that the air conditioner is unable to maintain preferred settings or temperatures. If your device is damaged or outdated, consider upgrading to a programmable or smart thermostat. Programmable thermostats allow you to automate settings based on your preferred setting, and smart devices allow you to adjust settings from connected apps.

Some smart thermostats even use machine learning technology to recommend the best settings based on factors like climate, energy efficiency, and household occupancy. Regardless of the type of thermostat, consider adjusting your temperature settings to create a balance of comfort and energy savings. For example, most experts recommend aiming for a consistent temperature of 78 degrees Fahrenheit to ensure a cool indoor environment without straining your AC equipment.

7. Consider an AC Upgrade

If your air conditioner has reached the end of its lifespan, you may also consider upgrading the system. Signs that it may be time to replace the system include frequent breakdowns or repair costs that exceed the price of a new appliance. Homes that contain AC systems that are over 15 years old may often benefit from the upgrade. The energy savings and even property value increases you can see with a new system are often worth the cost of professional installation. Ask your technician about installing an ENERGY-STAR-certified system that may come with tax incentives and solid warranties.

Contact Us Today

The arrival of summer means that it is time to put your AC to work. Make sure this essential appliance can handle the task. Buehler Air Conditioning & Plumbing provides air conditioner services for homes in Jacksonville, FL and surrounding areas. We offer AC inspections as well as routine maintenance. If you are worried about specific problems or glitches, our technicians also conduct efficient repairs.

Our certified experts can install brand-new systems or answer any questions you might have about thermostats, ductless mini-splits, or air purifiers. Let us help you tackle the Florida heat with a new dehumidifier or HVAC zoning system. No matter the issue, we can help. Contact Buehler Air Conditioning & Plumbing today for all your cooling system needs.

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Brad Dery
Brad Dery

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