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Woman checking AC is working or not at the home

There’s nothing more miserable than a malfunctioning air conditioner on a hot summer day. Ensure your home remains a retreat from the sweltering heat by getting your HVAC ready for summer. Here’s what to do before turning on the air conditioner for the first time.

Change the Air Filter

This is the simplest way to get your HVAC ready for summer. Depending on the type of system you have, you may need to change the filter once a month, once every six months, or once a year. When in doubt, follow the manufacturer’s recommendation. It’s wise to check the filter before summer starts to help your air conditioner function at its peak.

Clean the Outdoor Condensing Unit

Split-system air conditioners feature a condensing unit, which sits outside your home on a concrete slab. This large metal box contains a fan and fins that act as heatsinks to exhaust hot air from your home. Because it’s located outside, the condensing unit is exposed to the elements. You should remove any dirt and debris that builds up over time to maintain an efficient heat exchange process. Here’s how to clean a condensing unit:

  • For safety, turn off power to the unit by switching off the HVAC circuit breaker.
  • Gently hose down the fins to remove dirt, cobwebs, grass clippings, dead leaves, and pine needles.
  • Inspect the fins. If they are flattened in areas, straighten them with a fin comb.
  • Rake away any ground-level leaves, branches, or other debris that could get caught in the condensing unit.
  • Trim nearby vegetation until the branches are no closer than 24 inches from the unit.
  • Assess whether the concrete slab is level. If not, strategically lift the condensing unit using shims until it sits straight.
Check the Refrigerant Lines

Copper coolant pipes run from the evaporator coil located near the air handler to the outdoor condensing unit. These lines are usually covered and protected with foam insulation. If you see any areas where this insulation is damaged or missing, replace it with insulation sleeves or wrap the lines with foam tape.

Ensure Adequate Airflow

Closed, blocked, or dirty air vents can prevent your air conditioner from operating efficiently. In fact, if more than 20% of your supply registers are closed, the system may be thrown off balance. To prevent this, keep all or most of your vents open, and make sure they aren’t blocked by rugs, furniture, or curtains. Then, clean the grilles using the brush attachment on your vacuum cleaner to remove dust, dirt, pet hair, and other debris that restricts airflow.

Test Your HVAC System

Once your air conditioner is clean and ready to go, test it to ensure everything is working right. By running the AC for a few minutes before you need it this summer, you can avoid an inconvenient emergency breakdown and repair. Here’s how to switch from heating to cooling:

  • If the condensing unit is covered, remove the cover.
  • Make sure the power is on at the main breaker panel and the disconnect box.
  • Switch the thermostat from “heat” to “cool.”
  • Set the temperature a few degrees below the current indoor reading.
  • Allow the AC to run for several minutes, checking the airflow and temperature from each register throughout your home.
  • If everything is functioning normally, turn the AC back off. If you hear strange noises, notice weak or lukewarm airflow, or detect other problems, schedule air conditioning repair as soon as possible.
Prepare to Maximize Your Cooling Power

Overuse is a common reason for air conditioners to break down. Running your AC more than necessary also leads to high electricity costs. Fortunately, you can do several things to lighten your cooling load. Here’s what we recommend trying this summer:

  • Hang sun-blocking curtains in the windows.
  • Shade your south- and west-facing windows with exterior awnings.
  • Keep all windows and doors closed when the air conditioner is running.
  • Install caulk and weatherstripping on your windows and doors to keep the hot air out.
  • Run the ceiling fan to create a wind-chill effect.
  • Only use the oven, dishwasher, and clothes dryer during cool times of the day.
Schedule Professional HVAC Maintenance

After completing these at-home tips to prepare your HVAC for summer, you may wonder if you still need professional air conditioning maintenance. The answer is yes. Qualified HVAC technicians perform in-depth services requiring knowledge, tools, and training that homeowners don’t possess. Here are the top reasons why you should schedule HVAC maintenance every year:

  • Prevent inconvenient, mid-season breakdowns.
  • Lower your repair costs.
  • Decrease your energy bills.
  • Improve indoor humidity and temperature.
  • Prolong your system’s lifespan.
  • Eliminate safety hazards.
  • Keep your warranty valid.
Consider Upgrading Your AC This Summer

While maintenance can add years to your air conditioner’s lifespan, all mechanical equipment fails eventually. You know it’s time to replace your AC unit if you notice any of these signs:

  • Your air conditioner is over a decade old.
  • You are facing a high repair bill.
  • The unit barely made it through last summer.
  • Your energy costs are on the rise.
Schedule HVAC Services With Barstow and Sons

The HVAC experts at Barstow and Sons are happy to provide dependable cooling services that help keep your Annapolis home comfortable and your energy bills low. We draw on over 40 years of experience installing, repairing, and maintaining HVAC systems of all makes and models. Contact us today at 410-777-9185 to get started with an online service estimate.


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Annapolis, MD/Anne Arundel County



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