It may be a perfect spring day today, but the dog days of summer are right around the corner. And if you live in Cincinnati or Northern Kentucky, you know what is in store for you... hot and sticky days and nights when it never cools off. A little prevention will keep you from suffering later on. Here’s how to get your central air conditioner ready for summer.
[Note: The following information is designed for the Do-It-Yourselfers out there. If you’re not the handy-type (or just don’t have time) scroll down to the bottom of this article for information on how to have it done for you.]
The last thing any of us want is an air conditioner problem on the first day of a long heat wave. Here’s what to do to get your unit ready for what Mother Nature has planned for Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky this summer:
Step 1. Check The Filters
To get your air conditioner ready for summer, always start by checking the filters. Clean filters ensure that your air conditioner is working efficiently by keeping the components clean and the indoor air quality high. Dirty filters are a major cause of air conditioner malfunction and high utility bills.
To check your filters make sure the air conditioner unit is turned off at the unit or the circuit breaker. Many newer units have easy access to change the filter so you may be able to skip that step. Then carefully open the unit and remove the filters. First, inspect them for tears and rips - if you see damage don’t try to clean them - get them replaced, instead.
If you detect no damage, get out your vacuum cleaner and use it to clean the filter. To do this, run the nozzle over the filter surfaces until all visible dirt and dust has been removed. Take your time and be careful - delicate filter material is very easy to damage.
If you have permanent filters that are designed to be cleaned follow these steps. Find a container that’s large enough to submerge the filters. Fill it with one part water and one part vinegar. Let the filters soak in this vinegar bath for up to four hours. Any lingering bacteria and allergy-causing particles will be removed by this method.
Finally, take the filters out of the vinegar bath and rinse them. The vinegar will help get your air conditioner ready for summer and keep it sanitized throughout the season. We recommend that you lay the filters on a large towel to dry - preferably outside if it’s a sunny day.
The condensation drain line is a pipe that drips moisture away from your air conditioner unit. Unfortunately, your condensation line can get clogged with algae during the months when your AC is not in use. A clogged line can cause moisture to back up into the unit - and even into your home causing damage and mildew.
Here’s how to check your air conditioner condensation drain line for clogs – first, turn on your air conditioner (if it doesn’t start, make sure it’s connected and the circuit breaker is on). Then, locate the condensation pipe and see if moisture is draining out. If you don’t see moisture the line may be clogged and must be cleaned immediately if you want to avoid costly and messy damage.
There are a number of ways to deal with your algae in your AC’s condensation drain line.
Drop algae tablets into the drain line (if your system doesn’t have a drain pan). This can prevent algae build-up if you do it twice per year. Or you can place algae pan strips into the drain pan (if you have one) to avoid algae accumulation. This will help get your air conditioner ready for summer by keeping algae growth down. Most manufacturers recommend replacing the strips twice a year.
To be extra safe, once a year pour a cup of bleach into the condensation drain line. To do this, locate the access point at the top of the line, open the cap, and pour the bleach right in. Alternatively you can purchase a liquid algaecide (found at most pool supply stores) and pour it directly into the line.
Your central air conditioner is a victim of the elements all year round. Dust, mud, leaves, dead bugs, and other debris just love to gunk up the coils. This could be a major reason that your indoor air may not be as cool and comfortable as you would like.
To clean the coils, first make sure you disconnect the power. Then, with your garden hose, spray the outside until the dirt and grime is gone. If the coils are so dirty that you can’t clean them with water, commercial air-conditioner cleaners are available at most hardware stores.
Another key to efficient air conditioning is keeping the fins clean. Using a small, soft brush, go over each fin and gently clean the dirt away. Be very careful, however, the fins are made from soft metal and can bend easily.
Believe it or not, a major cause of air conditioner inefficiency is when the concrete slab the unit sits on is tilted. This can happen over time as the ground shifts and expands over the course of a year. If you detect a tilt, place new gravel underneath the slab until your level tells you that it’s perfect.
In order to operate efficiently your air conditioner unit needs space. This is an important aspect of how to get your air conditioner ready for summer and should be part your spring lawn and garden cleanup every year. Be sure to cut back all plant material that could block the unit or cause debris to accumulate.
Leaking ducts are a major contributor to sluggish air cooling and high utility bills. Look for joints that have separated and small holes on the surface. Leaks are best sealed with a special duct tape that carries the logo of Underwriters Laboratories.
Not every air conditioner unit has an accessible evaporator, but if yours does, cleaning it should be part of the routine to get your air conditioner ready for summer. This is a delicate procedure so we advise you to be extremely careful. To find out your evaporator is accessible look for a foil-wrapped plenum above your furnace.
To clean the evaporator, remove the foil, the small screws and the plate. With a small brush clean the front and back of the evaporator. Gently replace the plate and reinstall the plenum.
And finally, if your air conditioner simply doesn’t start make sure it’s connected to power and that the breaker is on. You’d be surprised how many homeowners make this mistake!
If you’re not a Do-It-Yourselfer or if you just don’t have the time to for all the steps involved to get your air conditioner ready for summer, consider reaching out to us. We are highly skilled with today’s complex AC systems and will make sure your unit works efficiently when you need it most. You can count on us to keep you cool and comfortable during the dog days of summer in Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky.