Is Your AC Ready for Summer?

If your air conditioner has been taking a break during the colder months, it may have collected leaves, dust, and debris, and its essential parts might need some pre-summer care. The last thing you want is to suffer in the heat with an under-maintained unit.
Neglecting your investment and hoping for the best could lead to expensive repairs, higher energy bills, inadequate cooling, or even the need for a replacement. So, before you crank up your AC, it's important to give it a little TLC.
Regular maintenance is a wise practice that results in a smoothly running system, a healthier indoor environment, and lower energy costs.
When thinking about AC maintenance, you need to know what you can do yourself and what’s best left to the professionals. While some basic cleaning and upkeep tasks can be DIY projects, undertaking other maintenance work on your own can do more harm than good.

Getting to Know Your AC System

Fundamentally, a central air conditioning system consists of two primary units – the condenser, usually found outside, and the evaporator, mounted on the air handler or furnace. These components work together using refrigeration technology to extract heat from the air in your living spaces. The air handler then circulates the cooled and dehumidified air through ductwork, distributing it to the various rooms in your home.

These are the key components:

  • Filters: These rectangular elements play a crucial role in reducing dust in the air. They can be easily removed from the indoor unit for cleaning or replacement.
  • Ducting: These are the round tubes responsible for distributing cool or heated air throughout the rooms, usually located in the ceiling.
  • Thermostat: You'll find this small box near the indoor unit, allowing you to adjust or set the desired indoor temperature.
    Registers: These grilles, positioned in the ceiling or floor, help deliver air into your home or return reconditioned air into a room

What You CAN Do!

Safety First
Before starting any maintenance on or near your air conditioning system, always turn off the power supply. The system usually has a 240-volt weatherproof isolator switch near the outdoor unit. Turn this OFF as well. The outdoor unit contains a capacitor that stores an electrical charge and can be dangerous. Allow around half an hour for the charge to dissipate before beginning maintenance. As an extra precaution, avoid touching electrical components.

Clean or Replace the Filters
Cleaning this part of your unit regularly should be your top priority. Some units have disposable filters, and some have reusable ones that can be cleaned with water. Check your manufacturer's manual to see how many filters your air conditioner has and where they're located. It's also important to clean or change your filters at least once a month throughout the summer.

VITAL TIP: Setting your unit's temperature too low in cooling mode can cause it to freeze and leak water if it doesn't have enough airflow through the filters. A helpful tip is to clean the filters and set the temperature around 22°C, allowing it time to adjust. If issues persist, don't hesitate to
call for professional service.

Clean the Condenser of Winter's Debris
Your air conditioner's condenser (outdoor unit) is like a large fan in a metal box and should be free of anything blocking it. However, both the condenser and external vents may have collected leaves, plants, dirt, and yard debris over the winter. These can harm your unit's efficiency. Ensure it's free and clear of any debris.

What you CAN’T do!

Check and Clean the Ducting
This one's definitely best left to the professionals! While you may know where the air conditioning ducts that deliver the cool air are, most ducts are hidden within ceilings and walls. A full cleaning of your ductwork should be done by a pro. A technician can find any holes in your ducts or seams that have come apart. Repairing ducts allows

your air conditioner to function properly as an enclosed system, increasing its energy efficiency and cooling ability.

You can keep some parts of your ductwork clean and dry yourself by removing registers and wiping the visible parts of the ducts. Also, you can inspect these parts of the ducts for wear or water damage. Due to condensation, air ducts can accumulate moisture, potentially causing damage to your system, and mould growth.

If you detect water damage, it's best to call in a professional.

Additional Maintenance Tasks for the Experts

  • Tasks involving the repair, replacement, or handling of components within the sealed refrigeration system are complex and potentially hazardous in nature.
  • Any electrical repairs, wiring adjustments, or component replacements within the air conditioner's electrical system should be done by a licensed technician to ensure safety and compliance with electrical codes.
  • Handling refrigerants, such as adding or removing refrigerants, requires specialised equipment and training to prevent environmental damage, and ensure proper system performance.
  • To ensure compatibility and efficiency, replacing the compressor, a critical component of the AC system, is a complex task best left to the pros.
  • Cleaning or replacing the evaporator coil involves access to sensitive components and refrigerant lines, and requires professional attention.
  • Ductwork repairs and modifications, including leak seals and airflow adjustment.
    System diagnostics or conducting performance evaluations require specialised tools and expertise.
  • Electrical control board replacement and repairs.
  • If your air conditioner is part of a combined heating and cooling system that includes a gas furnace, leave any repairs or maintenance involving the furnace to the experts.
  • Overall system troubleshooting, such as intermittent cooling problems or unusual system behaviour, should be investigated and resolved by professionals.

Testing Your Unit

Once the unit is clean and completely dry, it's time to test it. To do this, you'll need to restore power to your condenser unit.

Follow these steps to turn the power back on to the condenser:

  • Set the thermostat in your home to the "off" position.
  • Activate the power at both the disconnect box and the main panel.
  • Switch the thermostat to the "cool" setting.

Be aware that the air handler or furnace blower is responsible for distributing the resulting cooled and dehumidified air through the ductwork to your home's rooms. If an issue arises when turning the system back on, it’s time to contact a professional.

Professional Tips and Insights from the Sackett's Team

Good maintenance and optimal operation of your AC system is generally a combined responsibility for both you and your local professionals. Keeping your system in top condition has more than just comfort benefits.

Energy Efficiency: Efficiency is good for your bank balance and the environment – something that the Sackett team is passionate about. These are just some of the ways to ensure the energy efficiency of your system, that you may like to consider:

  • Seal air leaks around your home’s windows, doors and walls to reduce your AC’s workload.
  • Invest in a smart thermostat which allows you to program and schedule your temperature changes.
  • Stick to a regular maintenance schedule all year round.
  • Consider ceiling fans to distribute cool air more evenly, and work in conjunction with the AC system.
  • Use window shades, curtains and blinds to block direct sunlight and reduce the load on your AC.
  • Upgrade to an energy efficient AC system if yours is a little outdated.

Indoor Air Quality: Your AC plays a vital role in the quality of your indoor air. Keeping your system maintained and clean means it will filter out dust and allergens. Some ACs also have humidity control features which are crucial for comfort and air quality.

Smart Technology Integration: Smart technology offers the benefits of both convenience and energy saving innovation.
Smart thermostats learn your preferences and adjust the temperature accordingly – all efficiently controlled from your smartphone.
Home automation allows for coordinated control of lighting, blinds, and AC systems for maximum efficiency.
Energy monitoring through smart systems provides energy usage data, helping you track your AC's efficiency and identify areas for improvement.

Seasonal Transition is essential for your system’s longevity. Obviously you’ll need to up the inspections if you rely on the same ductwork for heating and cooling. And we’ve already covered the cleaning aspects. But something as simple as off-season covers are also beneficial to protect units from the elements and reduce maintenance and cleaning – just ensure you turn the power off before you cover it up.

Are You Ready for Summer?
Talk to the expert team at Sackett's – we’ll ensure your AC system keeps you cool this summer.