With the spring season upon us, residents of the Winchester, Va., region are preparing for hot and humid days and nights.

A properly running air conditioning system is critical to comfortable living in this region, and there’s no better time to make sure your air conditioning system is ready to go during the late winter/early spring weeks.

Following are a few simple steps you can take on yourself to ensure that you’re getting the most out of your system.

First – Be Safe and Always Stay within your Comfort Zone

Any time you intend to work with an air conditioning system, safety is critical. While these units are safe enough to exist within one’s home, there are still some things to consider.

The first thing to do is shut the power off to the A/C system. Inside the house, the disconnecting power via the breaker box is a necessary measure to be taken. Additionally, near the exterior condenser/compressor, a disconnect should be present.

Shutting the power off to the unit not only prevents the risk of electrical shocks or causing shorts that can damage the system, but it also prevents the risk of being harmed by the moving parts of moving parts.

Exterior: Condenser/Compressor

With the winter months coming to an end, everyone is eager to get outside. Starting your inspection/service of the outdoor condenser is the perfect excuse to do so.

 Clean Around the Exterior Condenser/Compressor

Even with a protective cover shielding the outdoor condenser from the elements throughout the winter months, there’s still the potential of debris causing restricted airflow to the unit. Check around the base of the unit for any leaves, branches, or other materials around the bottom and remove them.

Visual Inspection – Make Sure It’s Level

Removing the cover and cleaning around the unit, give the condenser unit a thorough visual inspection. This gives you a good idea of the work that’s ahead of you. This is also an excellent time to check that the condenser unit is level.

If it isn’t, take note of this and be sure to level the unit out once the remainder of your inspection/service process of the exterior system is complete.

 Cleaning the Condenser/Compressor

During the winter months, dust and debris can build up on the air conditioning unit. Cleaning the condenser unit starts with removing the fan cage and cleaning the fan by hand with a damp cloth.

Cleaning the fins is done with the use of a shop vac to remove any heavy debris from the surface then spraying the system clean with a garden hose from the inside out to remove the remainder.

Be sure to give the condenser coil a thorough inspection/cleaning during this step. The use of mild cleaners and dedicated fin cleaning solutions are recommended for this step.

 Fin Repair

Cleaning the system and before reassembling, taking the time to straighten the fins is a step taken to ensure the peak efficiency of the unit. If you find any fins bent, this can be easily rectified with gentle us of a household butter knife.

Interior: Blower/Furnace

This process doesn’t end with the outdoor unit. With a crisp chill still lingering in the air, you’ll be happy to know you can now move indoors. Inside, the process remains much the same in that it’s a simple process that will ideally require little more than visual inspection and cleaning of the blower.

Clean Evaporator Coils

The blower/furnace, the evaporator coils will be your primary concern. Gaining access to this part of the system can vary depending on the unit, but once you have reached it, a simple visual inspection of the system is in order.

If no pressing issues are immediately present, give the system a cleaning with dedicated evaporator coils and a brush to gently wipe away any stubborn deposits and debris.

Inspect/ Cleaning Drains

The cleaning solution to fall into the drain pan is perfectly acceptable. Though, after cleaning the evaporator coil, one should give the drain pan a wipe down and clean the drains. Pouring water down the drain to ensure proper flow is recommended.

If the pipe is not clogged and you can hear the water flow freely, pouring a solution of bleach and water to clean the drain is recommended.

This is a vital part of any type of AC preventative maintenance.

Unclogging the Drain

The drain is clogged, do not pour bleach into the system before unclogging it. Dealing with a clogged drain is as simple as attaching a wet/dry vacuum to the end of the pipe and allowing the force of the vacuum to pull it free.

Once the drain is free of the clog, be sure to follow up by pouring a solution of bleach and water through to clean it.

Inspect/Replace or Clean Blower Filter

The final thing to do is to remove and inspect the HVAC system’s air filter. If the filter is dirty, cleaning or replacing it is in order. Replacing the air filter is the simplest and easiest step one can take to ensure proper airflow.

Concluding Thoughts

Once your cleaning process has come to an end, you can turn the power back on to the system. If the system still isn’t functioning 100% to your liking, you may want to consider calling an HVAC contractor to come and inspect the system.

Performing this process is about more than merely ensuring the system is what one would consider presentable during the next routine visit of their maintenance plan. By taking the time to clean the system and perform mild repairs, one will ensure that the system is ready for cooling season and will be as energy-efficient as possible.