Technically, there are four seasons but in Ottawa, we usually seem to have just two: winter and summer. This means we often go from heavy reliance on our heating systems to almost immediate and regular use of our air conditioners. A quick transition like this doesn’t leave much time to make sure your equipment is in good working order before it becomes absolutely indispensable.
Of course, it’s ideal if you can check your system ahead of time, before you need it. However, no matter when you finally get around to checking your air conditioner, you want to be sure your system will work not only the first time you need it, but every time you turn it on this summer.
By checking your system now, you can do simple repairs or call for service from a professional before those dog days of summer. Waiting for the first really hot day could cause days of discomfort while you wait for repairs from HVAC companies that are overwhelmed with calls and overworked.
Thankfully, there are some simple steps you can take on your own to be sure your air conditioning will work when you need it:
- Start inside, with your thermostat. Take a good look at it. Is it old or outdated? You could save money and energy by installing a new programmable thermostat.
- If your ductwork is accessible, check it for wear, which could be a source of cooling loss or inefficiency in the home.
- Inspect the air vents around the home. Remove any items or debris that may have fallen into the vents. Check the areas around the vents for obstructions that could block airflow, like furniture, curtains or toys.
- Check the drain line located by the indoor cooling coil for blockages and clear the line if necessary.
- Change your air filter. The filter should be changed every three months and definitely before the start of a new cooling or heating season.
- Check circuits or breakers to be sure electrical connections are on.
- Moving outside now, inspect the outdoor condenser unit. Make sure there is no blockage in or near the equipment and clean the area around the unit. Leaves, vines or other yard debris can block the interior components and affect performance.
- Have a look at the refrigerant lines. The lines should be insulated. Proper insulation will improve the efficiency of the system. If you think any repairs to the insulation or refrigerant lines are necessary be sure to call a licensed professional.
- Check to make sure there is no wear on the outdoor electrical wiring. Again, if you see damage or wear, call a professional for service before using your system.
With this checklist complete, it’s now time to turn on the system to test it. Lower the temperature on your thermostat to the desired level and turn the system “on” at the thermostat. Next, go outside and listen to make sure that the fan in the condenser is running and that is doesn’t sound irregular. The air coming out of the top of the unit should feel warm, as warm air is being removed from your home by the system. Let the system run for 10 – 15 minutes or more, until you can feel the indoor temperature coming down in all parts of the home.
In addition to the annual routine above, it’s a good idea to have a trusted service technician perform regular maintenance on your system at least once per year to keep your system running efficiently and effectively. Sticking to this pattern of personal inspection and professional check-ups will keep your system happy and healthy for years to come and give you peace of mind knowing that your home will be cool and comfortable when you need it most.