Just like your car, your central air conditioning needs periodic tune-ups. This ensures that your system runs at peak performance and that you pay a lower energy bill each month. Considering the fact that about 50% of your energy costs go to heating and cooling your home, you will end up saving hundreds of dollars every year and can reduce breakdowns by up to 95% by following the air conditioning tips outlined below.
1. Professional A/C Tune-Up
A professional air conditioning tune-up will accomplish the things that you can’t do as a homeowner, such as lubricating moving parts, cleaning and clearing the condensate drain line, tightening electrical connections, checking the refrigerant level, and much more.
It is highly recommended that you schedule your professional furnace tune-up in the fall and an air conditioning tune-up in spring. Some benefits of annual HVAC tune-ups include:
- Reduced breakdowns
- Improved indoor air quality and comfort
- Lower energy bills
- Valid manufacturer warranties
Sign up for the Hiller Maintenance Plan to ensure these tune-ups occur every year.
2. Air Filter Replacement
The best thing you can do to keep your air conditioner running at peak performance is to remember to check your air filter every month and replace or clean it every 30-90 days (don’t wait more than 3 months!). A good way to test if your air filter requires replacement is if you hold it up to the light and you can’t see light passing through. That means your filter is clogged and should be cleaned or replaced immediately.
Set calendar and phone reminders to remember this important home maintenance task. We also suggest writing the date of replacement on the air filter itself so you know exactly how long it has been since the last filter change out.
If your air conditioner won’t turn on, a dirty air filter could be the cause. Some air conditioning systems, especially newer ones, will automatically shut down if the air filter becomes too clogged. Your HVAC system needs proper airflow to work properly. Improve airflow and energy efficiency while preventing dirt and debris from entering your HVAC equipment by remembering to check and/or change your air filter every month!
Watch this video to learn how to replace your HVAC filter:
Watch this video to learn how to clean your HVAC filter:
Just like your gutters, your outdoor A/C condenser unit has been accumulating debris. Before you start your cooling system for the spring and summer, take a look at your outdoor unit and remove any twigs and other debris that has gathered around it.
In addition to physically removing the large pieces of detritus, you can give the unit a more thorough cleaning with your garden hose:
- Turn off the air conditioner’s power source. You can usually find the power shut off box near the unit itself. If you can’t find the power box, turn off the unit from the breaker box.
- Trim away shrubs and other plant life around your unit. There should be a minimum 24-inch clearance around the entire unit to allow for proper airflow.
- Use your shop vac or heavy duty vacuum cleaner to remove grass clippings and other smaller pieces of debris.
- Use your regular garden hose to wash away the remaining dirt and debris.
- After the water has washed away, inspect your condenser fins for damage. If your fins are bent in large areas, call your HVAC contractor, but if the damage is minimal, you can straighten them out yourself with a fin comb.
If you want a more thorough cleaning, however, you will want to wash the condenser unit from the inside out. This involves removing the top of the unit and its fan assembly. Either follow the instructions on this WikiHow page or call your local HVAC contractor to complete the job for you.
If you have a clogged condensate drain line, you can use your wet dry vac to remove the clog:
4. Inspect Insulation Levels and Seal Air Leaks
Ideally, you already winterized your home and improved your home’s insulation, but if not, don’t worry. It’s never to late to make energy-efficient upgrades! Learn in our blog post how to clean, seal, and inspect your ducts.
How to Find Air Leaks:
To find out if you have air leaks around your home, use a thin piece of toilet paper or lit incense stick and hold it up to areas where you suspect a leak. If the paper or smoke begins to move erratically, you know there is air movement in the area and air sealing is needed.
How to Seal Air Leaks:
How to Inspect Insulation:
To inspect your insulation levels, go into your attic with a measure stick and check to see if your insulation is above or below 10 inches. If you have less than 11 inches of fiberglass or rock wool insulation or less than 8 inches of cellulose insulation, you should probably add more. Adding insulation to your attic and attic door isn’t hard to do and is one of the best ways to improve comfort and energy efficiency in your home.
If you are replacing your attic insulation, consider using a higher R-value insulation, such as spray foam. The R-value measures the insulation’s thermal resistance, so the higher the R-value the better the insulation, requiring less material.
If you have already inspected and improved your attic insulation, but your home is still drafty and uncomfortable, you may need to contact a professional contractor to install insulation in your walls.
Use this ENERGY STAR guide to find out the recommended insulation for your geographic zone.
5. Upgrade Your Thermostat or Learn How to Use It
If you don’t have a programmable thermostat, consider upgrading to one. There are 5 main types of programmable thermostats:
- 7-day – individual settings for each day of the week.
- 5-2 day – one schedule for the weekdays and another for the weekend.
- 5-1-1 day – same as the 5-2 day, but now you can set a different schedule for Saturday and Sunday.
- 1-week – one schedule that repeats for every day of the week.
- Smart Thermostats – these thermostats “learn” your schedule by a variety of means. They learn to adapt to your household’s schedule. Some common smart thermostats are Nest, Honeywell, Allure Eversense, and Ecobee 3.
Buying and installing a programmable thermostat isn’t enough. You actually have to strategically program it to get the benefits from it. When you at home, consider programming the thermostat to about 78°F (26°C) and about 10° higher when you are away. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, you can save about 1% on your cooling costs for each degree set above 78°F if the period is 8-hours long.
If you are having difficulty installing your thermostat, and we don’t blame you, call your local HVAC technician to complete the thermostat installation for you.
When choosing the placement for your thermostat, avoid inaccurate readings by making sure your thermostat is away from direct heat sources, windows, vents, and not too far from the center of the house.
Some additional spring air conditioning maintenance tips include:
- Pouring a cup of bleach down your AC condensate drain every couple of months to kill algae, mold, and mildew that builds up in there and causes clogs. Locate the access opening to your condensate drain line and pour a cup of bleach down.
- Schedule an appointment with your preferred HVAC contractor for duct cleaning, duct sealing, duct repair, and duct replacement. Learn how to inspect, clean, and seal air ducts here.
- Before choosing the HVAC company to complete an HVAC installation or replacement, go over this Bid Installation Checklist from ENERGY STAR to make sure you are choosing the right contractor for the job. Unfortunately, about half of all new HVAC installations are improperly installed, so do your homework first.
Keep in mind that many of these air conditioning maintenance tips will be completed by your HVAC professional during your annual A/C tune-up. Make sure you ask your contractor if things like A/C condensate cleaning, condenser unit cleaning, and air filter replacements are included in the tune-up.
We recommend signing up for a home service maintenance plan, such as the Happy Hiller Club, which includes:
- Precision A/C Tune-Up
- Precision Electrical Tune-Up
- Precision Plumbing Tune-Up
- Precision Heating Tune-Up
A/C Maintenance Checklist:
Additional Heating and Cooling Tips:
- HVAC Terms You Should Know | Heating & Cooling Glossary
- Air Filtration Options | Love and Pollutants Are in the Air