Even in Southern California where it is typically warm, spring can be a welcome reprieve. As the days get longer and the temperature rises, you are probably enjoying some moderate temperatures and the ability to immerse yourself in the warm, fresh air surrounded by the blooming flowers.
Although the heat of summer is still a couple months away, this is the perfect time to get your air conditioner ready for nearly constant use. The last thing you want is to turn your AC on only to find it is not cooling when those hot sweaty days arrive. Keeping your air conditioner in tip-top shape can be as easy as cleaning it once or twice a year. You may wonder where to start.
The following recommendations will help prevent breakdowns and increase your system’s efficiency for more reliable, affordable comfort.
1. Check Your Thermostat
Does it look old? Are the buttons unresponsive or hard to press? If there’s anything that makes it difficult to get the results you want from your climate control system, consider upgrading. It’s also good to make sure your thermostat is still accurate. Get another thermometer and put it next to the thermostat to make sure it is properly calibrated. A technician might be able to recalibrate one that is inaccurate without replacing it, but you will need a professional to make that call.
2. Check the Drain Line
Your air conditioning system will have a drain line near the indoor cooling unit. This will allow any condensation to drain away from your system. It is a good idea to check this drain line early in the season as it can become clogged with mildew and debris. For preventative maintenance, pour small amounts of diluted bleach down the line to keep it free of obstructions.
3. Check Your Breaker Box
If you have a split furnace and cooling system, these appliances will be on different circuits. If your air conditioning system is on a separate circuit, you will want to make sure that the circuit breaker is in the “On” position. Otherwise, you can turn your thermostat to cool, and it will do nothing other than circulate air.
4. Check the Condenser Fan
The condenser fan is located outside in a large metal box-like container called the condenser box. Remove any plastic or tarp cover from this unit if you have one. Remove the grill that covers the fan and clean the blades with a vacuum attachment brush. Vacuum out the bottom of the condenser box to remove any debris, dead leaves or anything else that may have been sucked inside from the operation of the fan. Make sure nothing is blocking the airflow to the fan blades. Vines or bushes that interfere with the airflow must be trimmed back, especially if the air conditioner was not used for a long time, and any debris that may have stuck to the fan grill must be removed.
5. Clean the Condenser Coils
The condenser coils are located inside the condenser box, and both the side and top panels must be removed to access the coils. These are generally held on with screws. The coils will look like the fins on a radiator, and can be cleaned with either a water hose or a vacuum cleaner and brush attachment. Any stuck-on grease or gunk can be removed with condenser coil spray and then hosed off. Always be extra careful to not bend the coil fins during cleaning. Bent fins will reduce the effectiveness and efficiency of your air conditioning unit.
6. Inspect the Refrigerant Lines
Your AC operates with a cooling agent that circulates through the system. Before starting up your system for the year, it can pay to check the coolant lines. Any cracks or holes will allow the refrigerant to escape and render your air conditioning unit useless. Additionally, you will want to make sure that there is insulation around these lines so that it will run efficiently.
7. Change Your Filters
Your HVAC system has a filter that needs to be replaced on a regular basis. Clean the air filters to ensure the circulation of cool air inside your home. A problem with air filter can give you issues with cooling. So, before you turn on the air conditioner unit, you must clean them. You can easily do it with a gentle soap and water.
In many cases, you would need to replace the filters. If the filters are damaged, get them replaced before the arrival of the hot summer season.
8. Schedule a Maintenance Visit
While you can check many components of your HVAC system without help, a qualified HVAC technician should perform periodic maintenance. A technician will fix any small problems that could become bigger issues down the road. Additionally, the pro will lubricate moving parts and clean the crucial components so that it will run at peak efficiency throughout the summer. This will cut cooling costs and ensure a reliable system. Additionally, preventative maintenance can help validate your current or extended warranty.
Time to Turn on Your A/C
After you have checked your indoor and outdoor equipment as described above, you can turn on the system to test it.
Step 1: Lower the temperature on your thermostat to the desired level and turn the system “on” at the thermostat.
Step 2: Go outside and listen to make sure that the fan in the condenser is running and that it doesn’t sound irregular. The air coming out of the top of the unit should feel warm, as warm air is being removed from your home by the system.
Step 3: Let the system run for 10 – 15 minutes or more, until you can feel the indoor temperature cooling off in all parts of the home.
What to Watch For
As the temperature outside starts to rise, your central air will be running longer and working overtime.
- Watch for water on the top or under your furnace. Condensation is normal, but it should run through the condensate drain only. Damage caused by improper drainage is common and usually expensive to repair. Look for any signs of freezing on the large copper line. If you see ice or frost there, it may be a sign that you have low refrigerant or improper air flow.
- If your central air system runs all the time and rarely shuts off, or you cannot get the temperature below 75 degrees, you may have a problem with the system.
- High power bills also can be an indication that something is wrong with your air conditioner. If you see signs of trouble, you may need a professional to take a look at your system. Being proactive means you will not have to worry about your air conditioning calling it quits on a 100+ degree day this summer.
Troubleshoot Your Central Air Conditioner
One of the most common problems HVAC professionals get calls about is the AC simply not turning on. In this case, be sure to check the power! Often, if your AC will not turn on, there is simply a problem with the power source. Therefore, the first and easiest thing you should always check when troubleshooting central air conditioner issues is to make sure that the unit has power.
Other Common Problems & Ways to Troubleshoot Your Air Conditioner
If the problem is not the power to the AC unit itself, the next thing you can check is the thermostat. Does the thermostat have power or do the batteries need to be replaced? Another simple air conditioner troubleshooting tip that is easy to follow is to change the air filter. Often times, low airflow and other issues start with the filter.
If none of those simple fixes is the cure, here are a few more common issues that you should consider:
- Inaccurate Thermostat Readings – One of the most common reasons that your thermostat is incorrectly reading your home’s temperature is that the temperature sensor is malfunctioning or has failed completely. Replacing a temperature sensor can be very difficult, so there are a few things you should try before you schedule a replacement. Cleaning the inside of your thermostat may fix the issue. If there is too much dust inside, the sensor will have trouble working correctly. After cleaning, if you’re still having problems, you may want to recalibrate your sensor. The recalibration method depends on the type of thermostat you have, so you should contact a professional for help. If none of these solutions work, then you’ll probably need to invest in a new sensor.
- Noisy HVAC Systems – As you go troubleshoot central air conditioner problems, make sure to use all five senses. Noises can be a big clue to what is going on. A noisy air conditioner generally indicates a problem with the fan, fan motor, or even the compressor. If you are able to figure out where the noise is coming from, this can help your HVAC team address the problem.
- Frozen Evaporator Coils – Unfortunately, frozen evaporator coils are a big indication that something is wrong with your air conditioner and ignoring the problem could cause your compressor to burn out. The good thing is that you may be able to fix the problem yourself before any expensive repairs become necessary. Check your refrigerant levels. If they are low, you may have a leak, or the refrigerant may not have been properly charged at installation. If your refrigerant levels are good, the next step to troubleshoot your central air conditioner, in this case, is to check for dirt and buildup and replace your air filter. Low airflow can cause your evaporator coils to freeze!
The last thing you want on a hot, sticky, humid summer day is to flip that switch to “on” and nothing happens. When your air conditioner sits idle for at least half the year, maintenance or a tune up is a necessity.
You can always count on the Aire-Tech to keep your home cool. Perhaps you need repairs, new thermostat installation, or preventative maintenance—whatever the HVAC issue is, Aire-Tech is ready to help. If your system needs repair or inspection before summer, call us on 951-926-1002. You can also visit our Contact page and complete the contact form.