So, it’s safe to say that Virginia’s winter season is finally nearing an end. It won’t be long before we’ll be switching that thermostat to “cool” and preparing for the hot, humid days ahead.
Before you reach for that thermostat and turn the AC back on, take advantage of these energy reducing, repair-preventing tips. Here are four items you should check before kicking on that cooling: check your air filter, clear the outdoor unit, double check your thermostat settings and most importantly, schedule your AC precision tune-up!
Most homeowners don’t realize that the heating side of their home comfort system shares a filter with the air conditioning side. If you’ve been running your heat for the past few months (even if only at night), your filter has been sucking up and trapping air pollutants nonstop. Check your filter and if it’s clogged, change it immediately. Why? A clogged air filter can eventually suffocate your AC system. Just like you, your AC system has to breathe. If a thick layer of dirt and dust is blocking air from getting into and through your system, it won’t be long before you notice big problems like ice on your refrigerant lines, freezing of the evaporator (cooling) coil, weak airflow through your vents and higher than normal utility bills.
After a windy and nasty winter, you’ll want to make sure the outdoor unit (the condenser) is free of leaves, sticks, debris, etc. Even though it seems harmless, a thin layer of dirt and the leaves stuck in the condenser can harm the AC’s ability to properly transfer heat and raise your energy bills. Your outdoor coil’s main job is to collect all the heat that was removed from inside your home and release all that heat into the outdoor air. If the outdoor coil is covered in dirt and leaves, it will struggle to remove all of that heat. Not only will this increase your utility bills, it will also increase the internal refrigerant (Freon) pressure and shorten the life of the unit. Grab your hose, set it to a gentle spray and remove all of that debris.
Always double check that you’ve moved your thermostat setting from “heat” to “cool.” Air conditioning companies get a lot of service calls at the start of the AC season just because someone has forgotten to change the thermostat setting. In addition, make sure your fan setting is in “auto” and not “on.” By leaving the fan switch in the “on” position, the blower will run 24/7 even when the AC system as a whole is not running. This will not only increase your energy bills but will also make the house more humid. When your AC system is running, not only does it remove heat from the indoor air, but it also removes humidity from the air. The system’s indoor cooling (evaporator) coil collects this moisture and drips it into a pan to drain out of the home. If the fan continues to run non-stop, the water won’t have a chance to drip into the pan and is actually reintroduced into the air stream making the home “muggy.” Setting your fan to “auto” helps lower energy usage and helps dehumidify your home.
Lastly, right now is the perfect time to schedule your AC precision tune-up. You may be asking: “Why get maintenance done now? I haven’t run my AC yet.” That’s the point. When you schedule your AC precision tune-up before the heavy cooling season, you’re making sure any small problems are resolved before the AC is running non-stop and full bore. Small problems can become big problems fast, and you don’t want to compromise your comfort when you need it the most—on a hot July day in Virginia.