Your air conditioning system works hard during the summer to keep you cool and comfortable. Over time, that wear and tear can increase your electricity costs and shorten the lifespan of your HVAC equipment. Let’s explore the steps you should take each spring to prepare your AC for the summer heat and save money.

Inspect and Clean the System

We recommend scheduling a professional HVAC technician for an AC tune-up in spring prior to needing to run your AC. If you have an AC warranty, it requires it. Another reason to schedule annually is to have a technician perform a multipoint inspection and clean your equipment. The multipoint inspection will help you avoid most unexpected repairs during summer. Cleaning the equipment is essential to performance and energy efficiency. A clean AC will make your home more comfortable and be as much as 15% cheaper to run.

Tighten Electrical Connections and Test Control Boards

Air conditioners and heat pumps are electrical systems with many electric components. It’s necessary to check all the wiring to ensure good condition and that there aren’t any signs of overheating. Replace wires as needed. Your technician will check and tighten all of the electrical connections, which can loosen over time through use. You should also test any electronic boards. Modern ACs often have boards for the condenser unit, evaporator unit and air handler.

Lubricate All Moving Parts

After cleaning them, it’s important to lubricate all moving parts. The condenser unit and air handler are the two main areas where you’ll find these moving parts. The condenser unit has a fan, which draws air over the condenser coils. The air handler has a fan that draws air through the system. In both cases, the fans generally have oil ports on the fan motor. Your technician will remove the plugs, fill the ports with the appropriate oil and then reinsert the plugs.

Condenser Unit Maintenance

The condenser unit is the unit on the outside of the home. It houses the condenser pump, coil and fan. It’s the homeowner’s responsibility to maintain a 1.5- to 2-foot perimeter around the unit. It should be free of grass, bushes and overhanging branches. You should also blow all leaves and other debris out of the unit. Use a level to ensure that the condenser unit has the right balance.

Your technician will test the HVAC disconnect switch. A faulty switch will prevent the AC from running. It’s also necessary to check the refrigerant pressure. If the pressure is too low, the system has a refrigerant leak. It’s also important to use coil cleaner to remove grime from the condenser coil. That grime buildup causes inefficient operation and also leads to shorter condenser lifespan.

Heat Pump Maintenance

Maintenance for ACs and heat pumps is essentially the same. These are very similar appliances. The main difference is that the heat pump has a reversing valve that allows it to heat as well as cool. If you have a heat pump, your technician will also test the condition and pressure of the reversing valve. A heat pump with a switchover valve stuck in the heat position won’t be able to provide cooling.

Air Handler Maintenance

Your technician will break the indoor air handler down to grease the motor and lubricate blower bearings. The air handler likely has filters that you’ll need to clean or perhaps replace. If applicable, check the motor belt and pulley. Test the bypass valve, and then, reassemble the air handler.

Evaporator Unit Maintenance

The evaporator unit is indoors. Your technician will use a coil cleaner to clean the evaporator coil. A dirty evaporator coil will increase your electricity costs and make your home less comfortable. It’s important to test the wet switch. A bad switch can cause the system not to start or cause flooding if the condensate drain line has a clog. Your technician will also clean out the drip pan and clear the condensate drain line. It’s also important to test the line to ensure that it has the appropriate angle.

Filter and Ductwork Maintenance

All central HVAC systems have at least one supply vent that requires an air filter. Check the filter and replace it as needed. This is also a good time to reassess your filter choice. All filters have a minimum efficiency reporting value (MERV) rating. The EPA recommends choosing a MERV 13 filter. Most modern systems support that airflow, and that choice will better protect the system and improve air quality.

It’s also important to inspect all exposed ducts. Those may be in the attic or the crawl space. Check all of the mounting hardware and the seals where the duct pieces meet. This is where air leakage is most likely to occur. You should also check the insulation. Insulation that is missing, worn out or wet can lead to as much as 30% energy loss.

Thermostat Maintenance

Remove the thermostat faceplate. Use a small brush to remove any dirt from and between the contacts. If there is stubborn grime on the contacts, you may need rubbing alcohol to remove it. Use a separate thermometer to ensure that the thermostat reading is accurate. If you have a programmable or smart thermostat, this is also a good time to check your schedules, profiles and other features.

Final Test

The last step is to run the system and ensure that everything is functioning as it should. Start the system and allow it to cycle. Listen for unusual noises and excessive vibration, such as from the condenser unit or ducts. Using a manometer and while the AC is running, test static air pressure at the supply vent. Then, test airflow and temperature at several or more of the return vents. If all of these readings are within acceptable range, you’ve prepared your AC for the summer heat.

Other Potential Maintenance

A spring AC tune-up is the perfect time to schedule other HVAC maintenance. Have your HVAC company clean your ductwork at least every several years. This is also an opportunity to perform a deeper inspection of the ducts using a camera system. Repair duct seals and replace duct insulation as needed. If you have any indoor air quality equipment, you should have those cleaned and inspected and filters swapped as needed. Relevant equipment includes whole-house fans, air purifiers and dehumidifiers.

Local AC Experts Serving Central Kentucky

Absolute Services has more than 15 years of experience providing AC maintenance, and we have offices in Elizabethtown, Lexington and Louisville. Our HVAC technicians maintain heating equipment too. We install and repair ACs, heat pumps, gas and electric furnaces, ductless mini-splits and humidifiers. Our electricians install smart thermostats, indoor and outdoor lighting, ceiling fans, generators, whole-house surge protection and EV charging stations. Our plumbers pipe and repipe water, gas and sewer lines. We install kitchen and bathroom fixtures and appliances, tank and tankless water heaters and water filtration and softening systems. Our company also has garage door specialists that install, repair and upgrade all manner of garage doors.

Contact us today with any questions about these services or to schedule an on-site consultation or service appointment.