How to Keep Your Central AC System Running Smoothly All Summer


With plenty of sunshine and warm, muggy days right around the corner, you may be wondering if your central AC system is ready for summer. When your air conditioner is in excellent condition, you can look forward to a cool, comfortable interior, no matter how hot and humid it is outside.

Keeping your AC well-maintained can also help you save on energy costs, improve indoor air quality, and extend the life of your system. To make it easier to get ready for the summer, we’ve put together this helpful guide to pre-season central AC maintenance.

How do you maintain a central air unit?

Photo of a central air conditioning outdoor unit

image source: Pixabay

If you have central air, you’ll have an exterior unit, which houses the compressor, and an indoor unit, which is responsible for cooling the air and then blowing it throughout your home or business through your system’s ducts.

Both units should be cleaned and checked. While you can do some of the cleaning yourself, a professional HVAC technician can do a more thorough job while also inspecting and servicing all the different parts.

Here’s an overview of the steps involved:

  • Turn off the power to the unit before getting started, as working around your air conditioner while it’s on can be dangerous. Switch the exterior shut-off box near your outdoor unit off and shut off the power at the indoor breaker box.
  • Starting with the outdoor unit, remove the fan cage or grill from the top of the unit so you can remove leaves and other debris from inside with a vacuum or by hand.
  • Remove any outer covers to give the fins a deep clean inside and out with a garden hose. Don’t use a pressure washer or a high-pressure stream from your homes. You may also want to use a special fin cleaning spray.
  • An HVAC technician will also straighten the fins to ensure proper airflow and level the unit if the concrete pad underneath it has shifted.
  • The inside unit involves more detailed cleaning and specific products, so it’s a good idea to call on the pros if you aren’t sure what you’re doing. They will clean and inspect the evaporative coil and flush the drain. They’ll also replace your blow filter and ensure all the internal components are in good shape.

How often should a central air system be serviced?

Experts agree it’s a good idea to service your air conditioner at least once a year. You’ll also want to change the filter at least twice a year or more often if you notice dust accumulating on it. Replacing your filter regularly may reduce your AC’s energy consumption by 5 to 15 percent.

In spring, before the cooling season begins, is the best time for annual maintenance. You may also want to have your system looked at if you notice any of the following signs of wear and tear:

  • Higher than normal energy bills
  • Slow response when you change the temperature setting
  • The AC isn’t effectively keeping your home or business cool
  • A foul smell coming through the air vents or any leaks around the unit
  • Your air conditioner is making strange noises

What happens if you don’t service your air conditioner?

Over time, dust accumulating on the filters and within the system stops your system from working as it should. Essentially, your AC has to work harder to cool your air, which shortens the life of the system and increases your energy costs.

How long does a central air conditioner last?

The average life of a central AC system is 10 to 15 years. Keeping the unit clean and running smoothly with regular maintenance can extend its life.

What is included in AC maintenance?

In addition to routine cleaning, an HVAC specialist will inspect your entire system, including your thermostat, refrigerant, and system controls, lubricate moving parts, flush the condensate drain line, and tighten electrical wiring. Once everything is calibrated, tightened, repaired, and cleaned, you can have total confidence that your central air conditioner will work beautifully all summer long.

Contact Pioneer Valley Environmental today and make sure your AC is ready for summer.