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NJ AIR QUALITY BLOG

How To Get Your Air Conditioner Ready For Summer?

ByAllen Czermak

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At the end of the summer of 2019, the air-cooling system in my home in Southern New Jersey had been giving me another round of trouble. First, it was the air blower coming off its bearings, with the family being notified by a loud searing noise. I called a local HVAC guy to come down and check it out and he let me know that the motor and blower will need to be replaced. After $750 later, our air conditioner was fully working once again. The second blow to our 15-year-old HVAC system was when the blade of the condenser had snapped and needed to be replaced. That was another $450 dollars and our house was cool once again.

This spring I am getting prepared to install a new HVAC system and water heater through The SAVEGREEN Project® by NJNG. One can be eligible for a $14,000 loan, up to 72 months with 0% APR. This program requires the HVAC installer to use energy efficient equipment which may cost a little more, but will help lower your energy bills. The program also comes with many rebates to incentivize switching the heating and cooling equipment in your home. I am hoping all works out and we have a cool home during the long, hot summer days.

For homeowners who have a reliable air-cooling system, you want to have a professional come down to turn it on to make sure all is in working order. And for those like me, who like forgoing the service call, we will discuss some tips and tricks in getting your HVAC system in tip top shape prior to flipping on the cooling switch.

Changing Your Air Filter

Air filters range in price from $5 to $25 a piece and should be replaced at least once before every season. You will be surprised to see how much dust will accumulate on one of these filters. If your home has carpet, you should probably change it more than once a season. The filter is located by the air blower and slips right in and out. Always make sure to get the exact dimensions before pulling it out. You do not want to be left with no filter while you go shopping for the exact dimensions. Very often the filter will break up on the corners as you pull it out. You want to make sure that you vacuum up all the scraps that fall into the air handler. Once this is complete, it is now time to insert your brand-new filter. Remember to insert with the arrows on the filter pointing towards the furnace.

Condensation drain is clear and free from any debris

Last summer I got bailed out of another HVAC service call by learning a trick, how to clean out a clogged condensation drain. When dirt and debris build up, it will clog the drain and the main unit will begin to leak, often leaving a pool of water around it. First you will need to locate the drain which is somewhere on the outside of the house. I myself could not find it, until I followed the condensation drain piping all the way to where it exited the house. At that point I went on the opposite side and began searching for the pipe but could not seem to find it. It was not until I removed five inches of old leaves and dirt that I was able to find it. Take a basic garden hose and securely connect it to the waterspout. Then turn on the faucet all the way, providing the maximum water pressure. Bend the hose area, just before the head that will cut the water flow. Once you straighten it a strong burst of water will rush out. The idea is to use this water pressure to loosen the debris blockages that are in the condensation drain. After 10 or 20 bursts you should begin to see only clear water, which signals that the line is clear. This method can be used to clean your condensation drain prior to turning on your system. 

Now it is time to make sure the head of the drain, attached to the system is clear. Simply remove the condensation tube and loosen the fitting from the system so that you’re able to get to any debris that might be in there. If you see that the fitting is dirty, wash it off with hot water. The drain line should be clear from water cleaning done previously, but if it’s still not, try pouring some bleach down the piping. Cleaning both from the exterior and interior of your home should clear all the debris from the condensation drain.

Cleaning the AC condenser unit

The cooling system inside the home is clean, and now it is time to move to the condenser outside your home. Throughout the fall and winter leaves and dirt can get into the unit which can potentially damage or lower system performance. Some people will cover the condenser with a tarp, like what is done with a tree which cannot handle the winter elements. For those homeowners who leave the condenser exposed all year long, it’s important to make sure you get rid of all the dirt and debris. This is done by taking a garden hose and cleaning the coils, from top to bottom. Do not use a high-pressure hose, as it can damage the condenser coils and even bend the fan. If you see there is still stuff on the inside of the condenser you might need to hire a professional to clean it.

HVAC air duct cleaning

After a long cold winter, air ducts tend to build up lots of dust. Having a local air duct cleaning specialist clean them would benefit the system’s performance during the upcoming summer months. If this can’t be done, the next best would be to clean all accessible vents. Simply remove the vent covers if possible and vacuum the inside and outside of the ducts very thoroughly. If the vents come out of the ceiling, use a vacuum head with protective bristles, to clean the surface of the vents. If you’re able to remove the ceiling vent, vacuum it out carefully as not to damage any of the fragile duct work. The duct work in the ceiling is not as durable as the duct work in the floor and can be easily damaged.

Turning on the power for the condenser 

If you have attempted by now to flip your thermostat to cool and you do not feel the house cooling down, the power to your condenser might still be off. Often, homeowners or property managers will turn off the power at the circuit breaker, at the end of the cooling season. If the condenser is still not turning on, try checking behind the condenser for a power box. There you will find another circuit breaker that might have been switched off. By now, if it is still not going on, it is time to call an HVAC guy to check it out. Hopefully, it will be something small like a burnt-out wire which should be a light repair. 

Replacing the thermostat batteries 

Usually people do not remember the last time they change the batteries on their thermostat and now would be a good time to change them. If the batteries become weak, chances are that the thermostat will not die but there is a chance that it will be weak enough, not allowing the system to turn off. Besides for the thermostat functioning as a “turn on” mechanism, it’s also used as a “turn off” mechanism. If the thermostat batteries are weak enough the system might run until someone realizes that the house is freezing, and the unit is not turning off. Therefore, when you get your system ready for the warm summer months, it would be a good time to change the thermostat batteries.

Final Words

Most folks in the Tri State area will not take the necessary steps when starting up their cooling system when the weather starts getting warm. But, those who take care of their system will reap the dividends of a longer life span on its equipment. I have priced out installing a new HVAC in a 2,400 square foot home. Pricing ranges from $8,500 to $18,000 depending on how many units one wishes to install. When a homeowner takes the time to make sure that their furnace and condenser is clean, and runs smoothly, they will probably gain an extra five years out of their cooling system. It may take some time, but it will be well worth your while, and a pretty big expense might just be able to get pushed off a little longer. I usually push things off, but the last thing anyone wants is to be stuck in a home which is warm during the summer months. For that reason, I am doing my due diligence to get a quote from an HVAC guy during coronavirus quarantine. But, if your system is working fine, you want to keep it that way by taking the proper steps before turning on your air conditioner.

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