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Fewer than 500,000 people lived in and around the Gulf coast before A/C was invented. Thankfully, air conditioning has made living in these hot, humid, and unforgiving states a reality. Those who have lived there for generations will attest to the importance of A/C upkeep and cost management.

Making sure your air conditioner is ready will prevent expensive repairs. Preventative maintenance is something that you can do before the summer heat arrives. You will save money and time from having to diagnose problems when they happen.

Here are 10 tips on keeping your AC cool and your temperament cooler.

1. Change the Filter

This one is a no-brainer for homeowners with central heat and air. The filter is the lungs of your air conditioner. If you allow it to build up with dust, dirt, and debris, it will make it work harder to cool the house. 

If it gets too bad, your coils will start to get dirty, which traps condensation, leading to them freezing up. Change your filter monthly if you’re using standard fiberglass filters. We recommend investing in more eco-friendly and efficient HEPA filters. 

2. Remove Outside Debris

The outdoor condenser unit can get dirty, damaged, and filled with obstructions quickly. Even if your yard doesn’t have any trees, leaves will find their way into your condenser. As your unit becomes blocked by debris, it runs harder and hotter, causing higher energy usage. 

If things get really bad, you’ll eventually run into parts failing (solenoids are especially susceptible) and potential electrical fire hazard. Do a thorough job of clearing out leaves, twigs, and caked-on dirt with a low-pressure water hose. 

3. Clear Your Vents

This tip is great for overall air quality and cooling efficiency. It’s a dirty job, but someone’s gotta do it. Start by opening your supply vents in each room. 

Make sure none of them are completely closed, as it creates unnecessary pressure on the ducts. This leads to cool air leaking into the attic or underflooring, wasting energy. The added pressure also causes the air handler to work harder.

Clean these vents and watch for potential obstructions, like drapes, rugs, and etc.

4. Clean the Drainage

As the months get hotter, your AC unit “sweats” more. This excess condensation should collect outside and evaporate. That is, as long as there is nothing clogging the drain line. 

You should do regular maintenance on the outside drain to make sure leaves and mud aren’t building up. If your drain does become backed up, water will begin collecting inside your AC closet. There’s a small container that will fill and trigger a switch to automatically shut off the unit.

Use a wet-dry vacuum to suck up any debris on the outside drain and on the inside drain pipe.

5. Check the Refrigerant

While we do not recommend anyone to change their refrigerant, you can check if it’s running low. On the outside condenser unit, there are two copper pipes. The largest of the two is surrounded by insulation, but it should feel cold.

If it doesn’t, then it is running low on coolant. For those with commercial air conditioners, you’re best off having an HVAC professional come to service the coolant.

Locate the two copper lines that run to the condenser unit and identify the larger line, which might have insulation around it. The line should feel cold to the touch or sweat when the A/C runs. If the line feels warm after running the air conditioner, call an HVAC specialist to add coolant.

6. Cover for Winter

Unexpected snowfall can really do a number on your outdoor unit. The snow itself can cause rust and electrical damage if you don’t use a heat pump. AC covers are pretty cheap and easy to install. 

These covers are vital for preventing outside debris from falling into the vents. If you can’t find any covers, a sturdy tarp or piece of plywood will also do.

7. Digital Thermostat

Upgrade your thermostat to a digital, programmable thermostat. This upgrade will save you the most time and money during the summer. If possible, choose a smart thermostat, like the Nest. 

Independent studies have shown a 10-15% reduction on the average bill. That means it pays for itself in less than a year for most people. With a smart thermostat, your air conditioner is ready to adapt to your needs.

8. Brush the Fins

After taking a water hose to the outside AC unit, you’ll need to do a bit of detailing. Find a soft brush, like an old toothbrush or tile brush, and go over the fins. These small metal filters are easily bent, so watch the pressure and angle of your brush strokes.

9. Level Concrete Foundation

With all the debris out of the way, don’t forget the foundation. The concrete slab should be visible all the way around. Clear any growth from around it. 

Worry about aesthetics later, you need to make sure your AC unit is level and sitting unobstructed. If it isn’t level, you’ll need to adjust the slab, add fillers, or replace it altogether. You’re more prone to clogs and debris with an uneven concrete foundation.

10. Check for Gaps

Often overlooked, this last step involves making your home as leak-proof as possible. Older homes are especially bad with keeping the climate in your house stable. Look at window frames, doorways, and attic entryways.

You’ll need to seal any gaps with insulation, caulking, rubber flaps, and etc.

Find Out if Your Air Conditioner is Ready

We know it’s a lot to check off on this maintenance list. Making sure your air conditioner is ready every year takes time and experience. Some of these activities are best left to the professionals.

At Fast AC Service, we handle all maintenance, repair, and install jobs, big or small. We work with commercial and residential clients to ensure safe and efficient HVAC servicing. Contact us today if you’re having any problems or need a more reliable AC when the heatwave hits.