We’re finally into spring with summer not far behind, meaning it will soon be time to start up the air conditioners for the season. After several months of sitting idle, it’s a good idea to do an initial check of your air conditioner to make sure everything is in tip-top shape to avoid costly repairs. Here are some start-up steps to take, as well as some DIY tips to try, in the event your unit isn’t running quite as expected.
Start your air conditioning check-up by inspecting your outdoor AC unit. Remove and store the winter cover. Then make sure that nothing will impede the airflow or fan operation. Clear any shrubbery, grass, or dirt from around the outside of the unit. Be sure to take a look inside. Over the winter months, debris like leaves, sticks, or small stones can sometimes get blown inside. Be sure to remove anything that isn’t part of the unit itself.
Basic Maintenance and Operation
Once you’ve ensured that the unit is clean and free of debris, check that you’ve done the following for worry-free operation:
- Change your filter. This is one of the most important maintenance steps you can take to keep your AC unit running smoothly and efficiently. Even if you think it’s not that dirty or old, why not start the cooling season with a fresh filter? The relatively low cost of a new one could save you plenty in future repairs.
- Check your thermostat. Make sure your thermostat is set on COOL mode and the temperature is set low enough to “call” for cooling.
Common Problems and Their DIY Solutions
- The fan isn’t running. Check to make sure the high voltage power is on. There’s a disconnect outside and a circuit breaker in the main panel. Make sure that both are in the ON position and that the fuses are intact. You can always double check to make sure nothing has gotten inside the outdoor unit since you last looked—like a small, curious critter!
- The fan is running but it’s not cooling. Check to see if you might be in a power saver mode if you have a utility saver switch. You could also be experiencing low airflow, which if left unchecked, can result in a frozen unit or coils. Be sure to double check that you’ve installed a new filter and that it’s correctly situated in place.
Problems That Need a Professional
- Faulty wiring. If you find that your unit is frequently tripping a circuit breaker or blowing fuses, it’s a good idea to have a qualified professional take a look. If your wiring is outdated or faulty, you risk a fire hazard, as well as unreliable cooling.
- Leaking or low refrigerant. If you notice a leak in your air conditioning system, you could be losing lubricating oil and/or refrigerant. Since these materials can be hazardous and require appropriate disposal, this is a repair that requires a professional to handle.
- Damaged coils. The coils in your unit are responsible for the actual absorption of heat and dispensing of cooling—the real guts of the operation. It’s a good idea to get them inspected and cleaned professionally to prevent build-up of dirt or soot which can result in costly air conditioner repair. And if they need repair or replacement, that’s another job for your HVAC pro.
Considering a new air conditioner altogether? Check out our 2017 recommendations.