Before turning on the air conditioning for the season, use this spring cleaning checklist to prepare your HVAC system for the summer heat.
Indoor HVAC Unit
Let’s start with the spring cleaning checklist of the top tasks to take care of inside your home.
Change the Filter
As a general rule of thumb, the changing season signifies that it’s time to change your HVAC filter. Routinely cleaning and changing filters – at least every 90 days – will help keep the air conditioning working well. Replacing a dirty HVAC filter can make the unit up to 5% more energy efficient. For pet owners and allergy sufferers, filters can be changed out more frequently, even monthly, to improve air quality.
How to Find the Right HVAC Filter
Most replacement filters can be found at a local hardware store. Write down the model number of and size of your current filter before you go so you’ll be sure to buy the right kind. For a good quality filter which traps more airborne particles, choose one with a MERV rating of 7 or higher.
When you replace the filter, also check the condensate drain. This looks like a plastic or metal tray which serves to collect the moisture produced by the air conditioning coil. It’s important that the water collected here drains adequately because overflow could potentially damage the HVAC unit or your home. Make sure the hose connecting the tray to the drain is still in the right position and not leaking.
Turn on Fans
Use ceiling fans during the spring to help circulate fresh air and improve air quality before turning on the air conditioning for the summer.
Spring is a good time to clean supply vents. Check that every register around the house is open and that air can pass freely. Furniture, rugs and curtains shouldn’t block the output from the air conditioner. To wash the grills, first remove them from the vents, then vacuum to remove dust and pet hair that may have accumulated over the winter and, finally, wash them with warm water and mild soap.
Dust off Electronics & Lights
Dust prevents electronics and other electrical devices from running efficiently. This is also a great time to clean any bathroom fans to clean buildup from the blades.
Vacuum Refrigerator Coils
Dust builds up on refrigerator coils, causing the motor to work harder and consume more energy. Cleaning this once a year helps the appliance operate more efficiently.
Adjust the Thermostat
If you don’t already have a programmable thermostat, we advise getting set up with one before the summer heat arrives. It’s great for energy savings and keeping the HVAC unit running less when cooling is not required. It’s easy to program the thermostat to ensure your house is a comfortable temperature when you get home.
Outdoor HVAC Unit
Clear Around the Outdoor Unit
During the winter, leaves, dirt and other debris have likely built up around the HVAC unit. Spring cleaning should include clearing away leaves, soil and mulch then cutting back any plants or bushes growing nearby. It should have 1-2 feet of clearance all the way around to maximize airflow and optimize the system’s performance.
Be sure to turn the power off, then clean the air conditioner fins by carefully vacuuming the outside of the unit with the brush attachment.
As you’re washing the unit, take note of the condition of the external panels. If any of them looks damaged or misaligned, you’ll want to mention this to your HVAC technician. You should also check the condition of the foam insulation around the refrigerant line running from the unit to the house. If it’s damaged or missing in places, it could be easily repaired before starting the system up for the summer.
Wash Solar Panels
If you have solar panels on your house, washing them at least once a year will help boost their productivity.
Test the Air Conditioning System
Once you have gone through all the items on the spring cleaning checklist, go ahead and turn on your HVAC system. Confirm that the air conditioning works and that cool air circulates throughout the house after it has been running for a few minutes.
If the air conditioning doesn’t seem to cool adequately, check that the thermostat is set to the right temperature and programmed correctly. If that doesn’t resolve the problem, turn the system off at the thermostat and call your HVAC service provider. It may be time to have your system tuned up or have the coolant replaced.
When to Call a Professional
Check off two other important things: now is the time to schedule a professional duct cleaning and HVAC system tune-up. It’s key that your air conditioner gets inspected and calibrated at the beginning of the season. Regular maintenance will keep it running well for years to come. Similarly, duct cleaning helps your system run efficiently and ensure that the output is simply clean, cool air.
While going through this spring cleaning checklist, if you see anything that looks unusual about your HVAC unit or it doesn’t seem to be working as well as it did last year, that’s also a good reason to get some professional help.