5. Change the air filters: The change in seasons is usually a good time to replace your indoor air filters. Especially after a bitter winter where it's lkely that your indoor air filter will have gathered a lot more debris and dust than normal, you should be sure to change the filter before the cooling season. The link below provides a step-by-step guide to this process. (Be sure to pay attention to the airflow directions arrow on both the system and the filter — they both need to be pointing in the same direction).
6. Check the coil drainage hose: This hose (usually plastic) can also be called the “condensate line”. Since the coil’s temperature is lower than the ambient air, water will condense on the coil and drip into the tray below. This condensate needs to flow to a drain or the tray will fill up and flood the unit or potentially spill water into your basement. Check to make sure the line is in the proper place, attached, and will drain to the appropriate location.
7. Clean the supply vents and return grills: Make sure the both the supply and return air grills and vents are open and free of debris. It would also be good to use the vacuum to remove any pet hair or dust that might have accumulated during the previous season. Some houses have separate winter and summer supply grills, or house zoning and some even have separate systems — one for heating and one for cooling. If you have a system like this you might have put extra plastic material over the A/C vents to prevent drafts during the cold months. If so, it is important to remove these before you turn on the A/C or you will not have proper air flow back through the system and this could cause severe damage. In general, cleaning all grills at the beginning of every season is a good idea.
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8. Turn it on and make sure it works: After going through the check list, wait for a nice, hot day when you have some time to check the air coming out of the indoor vents for the first few minutes after starting it, and then every few hours throughout the day. After the first few minutes, you should feel cool air coming out of the registers. If no air is coming out, or if the air coming out does not feel cool, then something is wrong and you should immediately turn the system off at the thermostat. You can go through the check list one more time and then try it again. If the problem persists, turn the system off and call a good HVAC contractor who can diagnose the problem. Leaving the system turned on when it’s not running properly can do a lot of damage. It never hurts to ask an HVAC professional to help diagnose the problems if your system is not working properly.
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In summary, a brief A/C inspection now could help keep your system running worry-free through the heat of the summer and fall and is especially important for older systems. While performing this general inspection, take note of the overall system health in order to assess the likelihood of a problem. If your system is old and has endured an unusually harsh season, it might be time to call for help.
A qualified, licensed HVAC technician can help you do a more thorough spring technical inspection to avoid a system failure in the hottest months of the year. The technician can also help address any concerns you have so let the contractor know what you found during your own spring inspection. Summer is just around the corner and no one knows your house better than you. If air conditioning is a necessity due to your lifestyle or geographical location, then be sure to get a professional’s opinion before time runs out.
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What do you do to prepare your A/C before the hot season begins? Tell us about your experiences in the comments below.
Editor's note: This is an updated version of an article originally posted May 12, 2014.