As the weather breaks, the days are getting longer and temperatures begin to rise, many people will be eager to flip the switch on their air conditioning unit.
However, after a winter’s worth of cold, wet weather, routine maintenance should be conducted to ensure all systems are ready to survive the summer heat.
According to Jason Thompson of Knoechel Heating in Zelienople, transitioning seasons is the perfect time to check HVAC units to ensure they are functioning properly. For starters, he said air filters should be checked and replace if they are dirty, ensuring proper air flow. Additionally, checking thermostat batteries is something that should be done a few times a year.
Also inside the home, Thompson said all registers — both intake and output — should be open and uncovered, with no furniture blocking them.
Duct work should be checked occasionally to ensure there is not excessive dust or dirt buildup. Additionally, Thompson said checking to make sure there are no leaks in those ducts is a good idea to ensure all cooled air is getting to the registers.
The outdoor portion of an air conditioning unit should be checked to make sure any covering placed over it for the winter has been removed. Leaving the cover on can cause extensive damage, Thompson said.
“You’d be surprised how many people start their air conditioners and forget to take the covers off,” he said.
While checking for covers, Thompson said the area surrounding the unit should be cleared of tree branches, sticks and brush. That routine maintenance of the area should be conducted at least once a month throughout the summer to keep the unit unobstructed, which will increase air flow through the unit. If the unit is sitting on a slab, that area should also be checked for cracks or slips.
While weather in early spring and late fall can fluctuate rapidly, Thompson said good, clean units should be able to transition back and forth from heating to cooling.
“There are no issues going back and forth from one to the other,” he said. “You can run the heater in the morning and the air in the afternoon.”
In the event repairs or even a replacement is needed, Thompson said there are a number of factors to consider.
First, the size of an air conditioning unit should be appropriate for the home. According to information provided by Knoechel Heating, a system that is larger than needed will turn on and off too often, which reduces the life span. A system that is too small will run constantly to keep the home cool, which will not only reduce its life span but also increase utility bills.
Thompson also pointed to the system by which units are rated — the Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio — and its importance in choosing a unit. He likens the system to miles per gallon for a vehicle, as it measures how much cooling a system puts out for each unit of energy it uses. The higher the rating, the more efficient a system is.
Modern systems also offer a technological advantage, as Thompson said wireless thermostats that can be controlled remotely via a computer or phone have become popular.
“It’s a great way for people to sit back and control energy costs,” he said.
Potential customers should also look for a unit that provides a good warranty, particularly one that requires regular maintenance and service to remain valid.