Don’t forget to put your Central AC on the spring cleaning punch list.
I live with my older brother in a 3-bedroom house in the northeast and when it comes to house cleaning we usually play something I like to call, “Clean Up Russian Roulette.” The rules are simple: ignore the dirt and dust to the point where the other person can’t stand it anymore, has a mental break down, and does the cleaning. Needless to say, we don’t entertain many women in our house.
Our one exception is the annual ritual know as spring cleaning. Each March or April we create a list of tasks, assign duties, set aside an entire Saturday and turn our house into something that would make our mom proud.
Chances are you’re about to embark on your spring cleaning weekend in the near future. You may be planning to de-clutter the garage, wash all the windows, or lay down some new bark mulch. However, this is also an opportune time for some basic, yet essential, HVAC upkeep; specifically, air conditioning.
Begin this maintenance process with a quick walkthrough of your home to inspect things like caulk and weatherstripping around doors and windows ensuring proper seals that safeguard against energy loss when you run the air conditioning. In addition, the mild weather provides the perfect setting to install or replace insulation in the attic or other areas of the house to counter air leaks that inhibit optimal HVAC performance.
It’s also a good idea to change your HVAC filter next. Ideally, replacing filters on a monthly basis is advisable, but if that’s not realistic experts warn against exceeding the ninety-day mark between filter changes. If you’re one of the 50 million seasonal allergy sufferers in the U.S. choose a filter with a minimum MERV 8 rating to better trap microscopic particles thus reducing indoor allergens. For a little clarification of filters and MERV ratings check out our past blog post here.
Once the filter has been situated it’s time to remove the debris around the outdoor and indoor HVAC system sectors. Outside, clear away the leaves, grass, twigs or sticks that have accumulated around the unit or are stuck atop the grille and wipe away any pollen. Trim away any encroaching shrubbery to clear a 2-foot buffer, allowing free air circulation. Next, head to the inside mechanism and sweep, dust and vacuum the surrounding area to reduce excess particles entering your system. While you have the vacuum handy, hit all the duct registers and vents with a hose and brush attachment to gather up any dust, dander, and debris that may be lurking about. It also wouldn’t hurt to employ a moist rag to wipe down these parts for any stubborn dust mites or particles remaining.
At this point, it’s always advisable to call in the cavalry, in other words, a local and reputable HVAC technician to inspect the coils on your air conditioner. (To locate an HVAC Pro in your area you can find one here.) Dirt and grime buildup on coils can seriously harm efficiency, thus using more energy to function, resulting in a higher monthly energy bill. These critical components of your cooling apparatus can also be a breeding ground for mold. When dust and other particles settle on the coils and combine with the inherent moisture mold can develop, which could become a serious health concern if left untended. Often, the only way to remedy this is with a chemical washing which is best left to pros.
Air Conditioner malfunctions spike during the crazy, hazy days of summer which require servicing, so HVAC techs have more flexibility in their schedules during the Spring and can perform more thorough and comprehensive maintenance. They can inspect for duct leaks, probe and clean (if necessary) airways, check drip pans and drains and assure you that your HVAC system is operating smoothly, able to endure the ensuing summer sizzle.