If summer heat seems to be arriving earlier and earlier, then you might find yourself turning up the air conditioning a month or two ahead of schedule. While modern central air conditioning systems don't require much preparation before their first use, there are a few things you should consider. Taking these three steps will help ensure that your air conditioning system can keep you cool even through a long summer.
1. Check Your Filter and Condenser Coils
Turning your air conditioner on sooner than expected might mean using the system before you've performed some critical annual maintenance. Before you switch your thermostat to "cooling" mode, always check your air handler filter. Remember that forced-air heating uses the same filter as your air conditioner, so you should usually replace this critical item after the winter.
Avoid using your air conditioner with a completely soiled filter. The airflow restriction can overwork other components in your system and potentially cause damage. Dirty condenser coils are another straightforward maintenance problem that can lead to premature wear and damage. Cleaning your coils will help to ensure maximum efficiency during early heat waves and deep summer heat.
2. Watch for Unusual Sounds and Smells
Strange odors or noises can indicate a problem with your HVAC system. While it can be frustrating to realize that something is wrong, finding these problems in late spring or early summer can save you from suffering when the worst heat arrives. In particular, take notice of any musty odors or the smell of dirty socks. These unpleasant scents usually indicate excess moisture in the system.
Likewise, rattling, buzzing, or loud banging sounds from the outside condenser unit might be a sign of trouble. This unit houses the beating heart of your system: the compressor. Most compressors won't be silent when they run, but noticeable noises (especially if audible from inside the house) are a good indication that it's time to call in a professional.
3. Schedule Your Annual Maintenance
If you were waiting for the start of summer to take care of your annual maintenance, then some early heat might be the perfect indication that you should move this service up on your to-do list. You don't need to schedule a maintenance appointment before using your air conditioner for the first time, but you should plan a visit as soon as possible once you're using your system regularly.
As with most parts of your home, awareness and preventative maintenance can keep your air conditioner running cheaply and efficiently. Using some early hot weather to check these items off your list can potentially save you big bucks on future repairs.