Getting Your HVAC System Ready for the Summer

When you live in the Midwest, you have to be sure that your HVAC system is ready for whatever the forecast holds. During the summer, sweltering temperatures and muggy conditions can test the limits of your cooling system. To ensure your air conditioner works like it should all season long, Thomas & Galbraith Heating, Cooling & Plumbing is sharing their secrets to keep HVAC equipment ready to work hard.

Read through the steps below, but remember, scheduling a preventative maintenance checkup is a fast, easy, effective way to get your cooling system ready for hot weather. By having regular maintenance tune-ups performed, you can learn about problems within your system and order the necessary repairs, so your heat pump, ductless air conditioner, or traditional split system works properly and uses less power.

Check and Replace Air Filters When Necessary

When cold, frosty winter weather gives way to warmer spring temperatures, you may not use your HVAC system much at all. Many homeowners turn off their furnaces and air conditioners when the weather is comfortable, opting to open windows instead of using the home’s comfort systems.

It can be easy to overlook HVAC filter replacement when your system isn’t in use, which is why it’s critical to check your filter in the spring and replace it when it’s dirty.

Here are the steps for checking your HVAC filter and switching it out:

  1. Locate your furnace or air handler and look for the filter compartment. These compartments are often located behind a door or panel on the intake side of the air handler or furnace.
  2. Open or remove the panel and slide the filter out of place. If your HVAC system has a removable frame with a filter that sits within the system, take the entire cartridge out of the unit before inspecting the filter.
  3. If the filter is completely covered in dust and debris, it’s time to replace it.
  4. When you aren’t sure about the lifespan of a filter, hold a flashlight up to one side of the used filter to see if light travels through the screen. If it does, you can continue to use the filter. When you shine a light through the filter, and you can’t see light from the other side, it’s time for a replacement.

If you can tell that a filter replacement is necessary, remove the old unit and dispose of it. Take note of the dimensions by either looking for writing on the filter or using a measuring tape to measure the height, width, and depth of the screen. Purchase a filter with the same dimensions and place it within the HVAC screen like the previous version was if your unit uses a frame. Place the filter inside the compartment, with special attention to the direction of the arrows on the side of the filter. Make sure the filter arrows are placed pointing in the direction air would move through the screen. Secure all doors or access panels to the compartment.

Check Household Vents and Clean Them Carefully

The vents in your home are responsible for delivering carefully heated and cooled air into your living space. Unfortunately, since vent covers have openings, the covers and interior of vents can become dirty due to settled dust, dropped household objects, or grime that flakes off of shoes as people walk across the floor. Cleaning air vents can protect indoor air quality and your air conditioner since excess grime can cause damage to the system. Here are a few tips for cleaning vent covers:

  1. Remove covers from vents. Depending on your model, you may need to unscrew some holding screws before you can remove covers.
  2. Use a vacuum cleaner fitted with the brush attachment to clean both the vent cover and the interior of the vent itself. Remove any larger objects that may have fallen inside of the vent.
  3. Anytime vent covers are covered in visible dirt and grime, wash them in warm, soapy water. You can use a non-scratching nylon brush to get into the nooks and crannies of the cover. Let the cover completely dry before reinserting it into the vent outlet.
  4. When vent covers have closing louvers, check to make sure the levers are moving freely. Louvers shouldn’t be difficult to open or close. If they are, replace the entire cover.

To keep indoor air cleaner, some vent covers contain supplemental air filters that sit right behind the grille. These filters should be replaced as soon as they appear dirty. If your covers use reusable filters, clean them thoroughly and allow them to dry before replacing them.

Inspect Ductwork for Issues

If you want to stop 20% to 30% of heating and cooling energy loss, start by checking your heating and cooling ducts. Many families in Cincinnati lose a substantial amount of money unknowingly every year due to gaps in ductwork since damaged ducts allow heated and cooled air to fill voids like attics, basements, and wall interiors. If you are interested in reducing your costs and lowering your energy consumption, as well as protecting your HVAC equipment, perform a visual inspection of your ductwork. Take notes as you inspect your system so you can order professional repairs.

  1. Look for areas where damage is significant. Large, torn areas in ducts or smashed segments of flexible ductwork indicate clear issues with ducts. Additionally, be on the lookout for areas of ductwork that have become detached.
  2. Joinery gaps can expel a significant amount of heated and cooled air. Look for areas where there are gaps between ductwork connections.
  3. Watch out for duct tape. Since duct tape isn’t actually designed to fix ducts, there may be a sign of deeper duct issues where attempts to repair the problem have been made previously.

Inspect living areas for these issues:

  1. Take off your vent covers and look at the connections between the metal ductwork and the structure. Make sure you don’t see any gaps or cracks around the metal vent that could be letting air move into a wall, floor, or attic void.
  2. After turning your air conditioner on, move from room to room, and feel the air blowing out of your vents. If you notice rooms that don’t have much airflow, it could be a sign that the ducts moving air to those rooms are damaged. Take a note of the issue to report to your HVAC specialist.

Remember, with duct sealing, it’s possible to enjoy more of the carefully heated and cooled air you create with your HVAC equipment. Use less energy and enjoy a cool, comfortable home by having your ducts inspected and properly sealed.

Test Thermostats and Reprogram When Necessary

Anytime the seasons change, it’s important to reevaluate your thermostat settings. It’s important to select temperature setpoints that are energy efficient, since some temperature settings lead your HVAC system to consume more energy than others, depending on the weather. You should also replace your unit’s batteries, even if your device is hardwired to your main electrical grid since this supplemental power gives your system the chance to run even during outages.

Ensure your thermostat is operating properly by testing your unit today. Follow these steps to make sure it is working properly:

  1. Make sure your thermostat is on the appropriate HEAT or COOL setting for the season.
  2. Turn the temperature setting up or down a few degrees to trigger your heating or cooling system to turn on.
  3. Pay attention to a slight clicking noise at the thermostat, which indicates a signal is sent to your HVAC units.
  4. Make sure your furnace or air conditioner turns on.

If your system doesn’t turn on appropriately, remove the front of your thermostat faceplate to check for loose wires. Using a screwdriver, ensure that all connections are tight. Dusting out the interior of your thermostat can also resolve problems. Using a few blasts of canned air, you may be able to clear errors. If these troubleshooting tips don’t help your system to turn on, it may be time for a replacement thermostat.

Clean Your Entire Outdoor HVAC Unit

Airflow is crucial to the overall functionality of your heat pump or air conditioner, and it all starts outside at your outdoor unit. If the fins that surround the compressor become dirty or clogged, your unit could overheat or malfunction. Go outside and take a few minutes to clean up your HVAC outdoor unit before summertime.

  1. Make sure the power is off to your outdoor air conditioner or heat pump. Turn off the power at the main breaker box and the exterior power switch, which is typically situated on the outside wall of your home near the unit.
  2. Remove any covers you used to protect your system during the winter.
  3. Brush away grass clippings, twigs, leaves, mulch bits, or any other debris that may have stuck in the delicate fins of your outdoor unit. Using your garden hose, spray the exterior with a gentle stream of water to clear away dirt.
  4. Remove any debris gathered at the bottom of the unit during cleaning.
  5. Tear out weeds, vines, or other plants that may have grown near your air conditioner.
  6. Cut tree branches that hang over your air conditioning unit, leaving at least two feet worth of clearance around all sides of your unit.
  7. Clear away any outdoor items, including gardening tools and children’s toys, that may be stored near the air conditioner.
  8. Make sure gutters that overhand your air conditioner are clear and damage-free, so water and mud won’t drip onto your unit during the summer.

Inspect Refrigerant Lines Carefully

Refrigerant is the magic ingredient that helps air conditioners and heat pumps to do their jobs. Refrigerant acts as a liquid sponge, absorbing heat and transporting it appropriately in heat pumps and air conditioner cooling systems. Refrigerant lines connect indoor and outdoor equipment, but sometimes they develop damage that allows this liquid to leak out—which can make your air conditioner unable to do its job. Additionally, leaks of some refrigerant, such as R-22, pose environmental hazards.

Refrigerant lines run from the interior to the exterior of your home. Here are a few ways to spot air conditioner leaks.

  1. With your air conditioner running, listen for a bubbling noise coming from your outdoor refrigerant lines. Sometimes, leaks can also create a hissing noise.
  2. Watch out for dirty spots on the refrigerant lines themselves. Dirt and grime may stick to leaky spots.
  3. When you find an area where you suspect a leak, spray the area with soapy water. If bubbles start to form, a refrigerant leak may be present and should be professionally repaired by an HVAC specialist.

Conduct DIY HVAC System Testing

It’s never fun to experience the first day of summer without a working air conditioner. Make sure you’re not in for a surprise by testing your cooling system ahead of time. This way, any repairs can be taken care of ahead of the first day of summer rush.

  1. Inspect both your interior and exterior electrical panels. Make sure that any breakers that govern your air conditioner are in the proper position. Reset any tripped breakers.
  2. Ensure that the ON/OFF switches located at the indoor and outdoor units are turned to the ON position.
  3. Check to make sure that your thermostat is set to COOL. Keep in mind that some smart thermostats have a HEAT-COOL setting in addition to separate HEAT and COOL settings. This setting is designed to switch between heating and cooling during seasons like spring and fall when the temperatures can fluctuate considerably.
  4. With the AC system running, walk through your home and check the vents. There should be air entering the room through the vents, and there shouldn’t be a significant disparity between the airflow in some rooms as opposed to others.
  5. Listen to both your indoor and outdoor units as the operate. If you notice any loud noises, such as banging, scraping, or rattling, report it to HVAC professionals.

Could You Use HVAC Help Now?

Whether you know of existing HVAC problems or you want to upgrade your system before summer, contact Thomas & Galbraith Heating, Cooling & Plumbing for assistance. With an entire team of NATE-certified HVAC technicians committed to helping with everything from air conditioning troubleshooting to duct sealing, they can help you to keep your home the perfect temperature all summer long.

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