The dog days of summer are still in full swing, but they'll eventually give way to cooler fall weather. This also means you'll be using your air conditioner less as outdoor temperatures gradually drop. Keeping your air conditioner in top shape throughout the fall will help it stay in shape for next spring and summer.
There are still plenty of warm days ahead, but the following preparations can also help you navigate extended periods of dormancy throughout the winter.
Give Your Unit a "Spring Cleaning"
Fallen leaves, branches and other assorted debris can be the bane of your air conditioner's existence, as it can block airflow and even represent a fire hazard in some cases. You should always keep your air conditioner clear of all debris along the bottom of the unit, which is where the A/C usually takes in fresh air. You should also keep any and all vegetation at least a couple of feet away from the unit itself.
It's also a good idea to give the evaporator and condenser coils a thorough cleaning during the fall. A good cleaning can remove dirt and debris that has accumulated on the coils for the past few months. Coil cleaning can improve your air conditioner's performance while boosting its energy efficiency.
Another area you'll want to focus on is the condensate drip tray and drain. These areas can harbor mold and mildew growth. In addition, clogs in the drain line can prevent the tray from draining properly, allowing water to overflow out of the tray. By cleaning and disinfecting the tray as a part of fall maintenance, you'll prevent troublesome leaks while keeping mold and mildew growth at bay.
Check Up on the Ductwork
If you have a traditional central air conditioner, then chances are it uses plenty of ductwork to deliver cool, conditioned air. As a part of your fall maintenance, you should make sure the ducts are thoroughly sealed against air leaks. Any cracks or gaps in the ductwork can cause cool air to escape into unconditioned spaces, robbing your home of its cooling comfort.
When sealing your ducts, it's a good idea to use mastic tape or aluminum tape. Ordinary duct tape can deteriorate with enough time and exposure, making it unsuitable for long-term usage.
Have It Professionally Checked Out
There's only so much that your own cursory inspection can reveal about your air conditioner's overall health. This is where having the help of a trained and experienced professional can make all the difference. Your HVAC technician can inspect your air conditioner in ways you may not be able to. For instance, a technician can safely and easily see how much refrigerant your A/C system needs and recharge it accordingly.
Your HVAC technician is also trained to spot potential problems before they have a chance to grow into bigger issues. These include pinhole leaks in refrigerant lines, failing gaskets and impending compressor failure. Tackling these issues during the fall can help get your air conditioner ready for next spring.
Don't Forget About Your Air Filter
Here's a quick reminder to have your air conditioner's air filter replaced as a part of your seasonal preparations. Chances are your air filter has accumulated plenty of dust and debris throughout the season, which could lead to a wide variety of issues if left untouched. Changing your air filter ensures your air conditioner performs at its best. In addition, you also won't have to worry about mold and mildew gaining a foothold inside your A/C unit as it lays dormant.
As for how often you'll need to change your air filter, most experts recommend changing it at least once every three months. You can do this at the start of each season to ensure your air conditioner offers the best performance.