Nothing marks the end of summer like turning off the air conditioning for the last time. It’s a bittersweet moment that marks the end of those glorious sunny days, but the beginning of a brief respite from high utility bills. The end of the summer is also the ideal time to consider air conditioning maintenance tasks.
Wrapping your AC up for the season isn’t as elaborate as getting it ready in the spring, but it’s worth tending to it before the winter months set in. Here are some practical tips for end-of-summer maintenance.
Determine Whether You Need a Replacement
Before you dive into preparing your air conditioner for the winter, you should start by determining whether you’re due for a replacement. There are several benefits to replacing your air conditioning in the fall or winter.
The spring is the high season for air conditioning replacements, which means increased demand, and subsequently higher costs and longer wait times (source: callthegeneral.com/ac-repair-replacement/). By booking in the fall, you’re more likely to get off-season deals and get the work done more quickly.
Replacing your air conditioning in the fall also ensures that you’re ready to go on the first hot day of the year. There’s no sweating while you wait in the replacement or maintenance backlog.
If your air conditioner has been acting up lately, or you’re making more service calls, it could be time to consider an upgrade.
Swap Out the Air Filter
Ideally, you should start each cooling season with a new air filter. Cleaning or replacing the air filter (depending on your unit) ensures that everything runs efficiently. If you’ve forgotten to replace it at the start of the season, or it’s been a high-use year, consider replacing it now.
Wipe Out Dirt and Debris
Air conditioners tend to acquire a lot of internal dust and grime. Take a few minutes to open the unit and wipe out dust and dirt from the inside connectors, coils and fans. Leaving the dirt for the winter could shorten the lifespan of your unit and result in rust or harder-to-clean gunk.
It’s helpful to use a vacuum to capture any larger pieces of debris. Be careful not to loosen any connections while you work, and double-check before you close it back up.
Check for Leaks
Now is also the time to check your air conditioner for leaks before turning it off for the season. Leaks tend to result from clogged drain lines or an air leak. Sometimes a dirty filter will also cause a leak, so keep that in mind when cleaning or replacing this component.
When in doubt, call an expert to come to take a look. Again, it’s much better to handle these issues in the off-season, so you’re prepared for the following summer.
Compare Energy Consumption
Take a look at this year’s electricity bill compared to the same period of the previous few years. If you notice a spike in energy use from one year to the next, it could indicate that your air conditioning unit isn’t running efficiently. When an air conditioner (or furnace) starts to degrade, the unit uses more power to do less work. While it may appear to be operational, a spike in energy consumption indicates an underlying issue.
If you notice an inexplicable spike in energy, call a technician to come to look at the unit and run some tests.
Cover for the Fall
Finally, there’s a lot of controversy about whether or not you should cover your air conditioning unit for the off-season. The concern about covering them is that it creates a nice warm place for rodents and pests to nest for the winter, which could lead to chewed wires and a costly replacement.
Most air conditioners are tested to withstand extreme weather. The real concern is debris throughout the fall. If you experience falling leaves or hurricane season, it’s worth covering the unit for the fall months and uncovering it for the winter.
With these simple chores, you can rest easy this winter knowing that your air conditioner will work properly when the hot summer months roll around again.