Preparing Your HVAC System for Summertime

Summertime can be peaceful and relaxing, but when temperatures spike at the same time as humidity, the weather outside can become unbearable. It’s important to be able to retreat to a cool, relaxing home on hot summer days in the Louisville area, which is why routine HVAC maintenance is so important. Since summertime can be so busy for HVAC professionals, the team at Jarboe’s Heating, Cooling & Plumbing is sharing essential tips to keep air conditioners operating properly.

In addition to the steps below, be sure to have your cooling system tuned up by an HVAC professional this season! Preventative maintenance helps to make sure your unit is in top shape going into the summer season.

Check Air Filters and Replace When Necessary

Springtime can be very quiet for your HVAC system, as many homeowners turn off their furnaces, open their windows, and let the fresh air fill their homes. However, when you aren’t actively using your system, it can be easy to overlook issues, such as the need for a new air filter. It’s a good idea to check your air filter at least once per month to see what kind of shape it is in instead of relying on general information from the manufacturer since conditions can vary considerably from home to home.

Follow these steps to inspect your filter and change it, if necessary:

  1. Find the filter compartment inside your system. This is typically located on the intake side of your furnace or air handler.
  2. Filter compartments are sometimes placed behind a door or panel. Open the door or remove the panel, and slide out the filter. Some systems also have a frame the filter sits within.
  3. Inspect the filter. If the surface is covered in gray dust or matter, you should replace the filter.
  4. If you can’t tell if the filter is too dirty, hold a light up to the filter. If you can see visible light on the other side, the filter can still be used. On the other hand, if you can’t see light escaping from the other side, the filter should be replaced.

If the filter needs to be replaced, make sure to switch it out with a filter that is the exact same dimensions. The dimensions are printed on the paper frame around the filter, making it easy to know what size you need. If your system uses an HVAC filter frame, make sure to orient the new filter just like the previous model was inserted. Before you slide the new filter into your filter compartment, make sure the arrows on its frame are pointing in the direction of airflow.

Tidy up Household Vents

Over time, air registers can gather dust and dirt, and even objects can fall down into ducts. If debris makes its way deeper into the system, it can harm the unit, block airflow, or cause pollutants to recirculate throughout your home. Cleaning air vents is important to protect air quality and your equipment. Here are a few tips for cleaning household vents.

  1. Take the cover off of the vent. In some instances, it may be necessary to loosen screws before taking this step.
  2. Using a vacuum cleaner, clean out any gathered dust or dirt right inside the vent. Also, clean off the vent cover.
  3. Anytime your vent cover has dirt and grime that can’t be vacuumed away, it can help to use soapy water to remove the stuck-on film. Run the vent cover under warm water and use a non-scratching nylon dish brush to wash away dirt and grime. Adding a drop or two of dish soap can help to free greasy matter. Let vent covers dry all the way before reinstalling them into the vent outlet.
  4. When vent covers open and close with louvers, check the unit to ensure they are moving properly. If the louvers are stuck, replace the cover. If vents are unintentionally left closed, this places excess strain on your HVAC system, since it can increase pressure in ducts and disrupt the air pressure balance.

If your air vent covers have air filters that sit behind the metal grates, these should be replaced regularly. If your vent covers use reusable filters, they need to be washed and dried thoroughly before being replaced.

Examine Ducts for Issues

Most people don’t realize it, but duct damage is responsible for an astounding 20 to 30 % energy loss for heating and cooling every year. If you want to save energy and enjoy a more comfortable home this summer, it’s a good idea to inspect your ductwork and resolve air leaks. While many people overlook this task because many ducts are out of sight and hidden under floors or within walls, you may be able to access more than you think.

If you have unfinished rooms in your home such as attics or basements, check these areas for ductwork. Look for holes or areas where you can tell there has been air movement due to disrupted dust or insulation. Anytime you spot problems, make a note of the location, so you can report the issue to a professional who can manage the repair. Here are a few ways to visually inspect your ductwork for problems:

  1. As you evaluate your ducts, look for signs of significant duct problems. If you spot areas where flexible ducts have been smashed or there are large tears, those spots hamper airflow significantly.
  2. Keep an eye out for any areas where connections may have slipped out of place. If you spot holes, gaps, or total disconnections, these spots should be repaired by professionals.
  3. If you spot duct tape, pay close attention to those areas. Duct tape is not actually meant to repair vent work, so if it is present, it could be a sign that someone attempted to make repairs before. Unfortunately, as tape degrades, it can allow air to flow out of the duct leak again.

Check these things in your living areas:

  1. Vent connections within the register: After removing the vent cover, check the connections within the inside of the vent. You should not be able to see any gaps where the metal sides of the duct connect with woodwork or drywall.
  2. Airflow levels from room to room: With your HVAC system running, move room to room and pay attention to the airflow. If you notice spots that have lower airflow, take a note of it for your HVAC technician. You could be faced with supply problems due to damaged ducts in a hidden area of your home.

Remember, anytime you spot damage to your home’s ductwork, contact an HVAC technician to take care of duct sealing. This very straightforward procedure makes it possible to enjoy more heated and cooled air in the main living spaces of your home, lowering your energy usage.

Check Your Thermostat

When warmer weather comes your way, it’s important to make sure your thermostat is ready for the job. Use your thermostat’s manual to tweak the temperature settings and your programming schedule to accommodate the season and your current schedule. Select energy-efficient temperature setpoints to save power. Always replace thermostat batteries once a year, even before they are dead. This proactive action helps you to maintain HVAC control, even during power outages.

Also, test your thermostat to make sure it functions correctly as you get ready for summer.

  1. Make sure your thermostat is on HEAT or COOL depending on the season.
  2. Raise or lower the current temperature on the thermostat by a few degrees to trigger your HVAC system.
  3. You should hear a click as your thermostat signals to your HVAC system.
  4. Next, your furnace or air conditioner should turn on, and you should hear the blower motor start to push air through your home.

Anytime your HVAC system isn’t responsive, remove the faceplate of the thermostat to check for loose wires or dust buildup. Use a screwdriver to tighten loose wiring connections. You can blow out dust and dirt by using a few puffs of canned air. If your system still doesn’t respond but appears to be getting power, it may be time for a replacement thermostat.

Remove Debris from Outdoor Unit

Every air conditioner relies on appropriate airflow to operate properly. When outdoor heat pumps or air conditioning units become dirty or are surrounded by other items, they may not work properly or could malfunction due to restricted airflow. Before summertime, make sure your outdoor unit is clean and ready to go.

  1. Switch off the power to your outdoor unit both at the source and at the breaker box. There should be a small ON/OFF switch near the outdoor unit on the wall of your home’s exterior.
  2. Remove any air conditioner or heat pump covers and store them for the season.
  3. Using a soft brush, such as a hand broom, gently brush away any gathered organic debris, such as grass clippings and mulch bits. When you are done, use a garden hose and spray the exterior of the unit to remove dirt and other deposits.
  4. Remove any debris at the base of the unit.
  5. Cut away any weeds, overgrown shrubs, or vines growing around the unit. Consider spraying a non-selective herbicide on vegetation near the area to keep plants from growing back and limiting airflow.
  6. Remove tree branches and bushes that may extend over the unit, allowing at least two feet of space around the device.
  7. Clean up around the air conditioner, removing any stored outdoor items, such as children’s toys or gardening tools.
  8. Clear out and patch up gutters situated over the air conditioner to prevent water, rust, dirt, and other debris from dripping onto the unit.

Pay Attention to Refrigerant Lines

When it comes to the real meat of your air conditioner, refrigerant is the magic ingredient that makes all things possible. Capable of absorbing and transporting heat, refrigerant is used to move heat outdoors during the summer in heat pumps and air conditioners. Your indoor air conditioning system is connected to exterior units by refrigerant lines, and if these lines become damaged, they can leak and make it impossible for your system to cool indoor air—while also posing environmental hazards if your system relies on older refrigerant like R-22. Since refrigerant leaks can be difficult to spot, here are a few ways to find them:

  1. When your air conditioner is running, sit by the outdoor unit, and listen for any noises. Sometimes, leaks can create a bubbling or hissing noise.
  2. Check for dirty areas along the refrigerant lines, where leaks have allowed dirt and grime to stick.
  3. When you find a spot that may be leaking, apply a soapy solution, and pay attention to what happens next. If you notice bubbles start to form, a leak may be present.

Test Your Entire HVAC System

Avoid sweltering hot summer days by making sure your air conditioning system is working long before the forecast looks bleak. Perform a trial run of your cooling system to determine if you need to arrange for professional AC repairs.

  1. Open the electrical panel and check for tripped breakers. Reset them if necessary to make sure your equipment has power.
  2. Make sure the ON/OFF switches on both the interior and exterior portions of your HVAC equipment are set to ON.
  3. Check your indoor thermostat, and make sure the system is set to COOL. Check your settings. The temperature needs to be set low enough that the system would activate to lower the indoor temperature.
  4. Check all of the vents inside your house with the air conditioner running. Make sure the registers are open and that air is moving through them into the room.
  5. Listen to your interior air conditioning unit and listen as it runs. Check to make sure there are no loud noises or banging sounds.
  6. Listen to the outdoor unit as it runs. If you notice any strange noises, record it to report the issue to your HVAC professional. You should just hear the normal hum of a system running appropriately.

Ready to Get Professional HVAC Help?

When you can tell that your heating or air conditioning system isn’t performing at peak capacity, don’t hesitate to schedule service here at Jarboe’s Heating, Cooling & Plumbing. Since forming our business, we have been focused on helping our clients with comprehensive HVAC repair, including thermostat replacement, ductwork repair, and complex system diagnostics.

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