AC System needs tune-up

7 Best Spring Cleaning Tips for A/C Maintenance

Written By: Rebecca Bridges

Ah, Springtime! It officially begins on March 20 this year. If you are tidying up and performing your traditional spring cleaning, don’t forget your A/C check-up. A little time and money spent now on an air conditioning tune-up can save you during the cooling season.

Our 7 best spring cleaning tips for your HVAC system will help you keep everything humming along. Plus, you may be eligible for a free A/C tune-up!

How Much Money Can Proper HVAC Maintenance Save?

First, let’s talk about why it’s important to maintain your HVAC system.

Your cooling system accounts for 60-70 percent of your summer electric bill, according to Austin Energy.  On an annual basis, heating and cooling consumes more than 50% of the electricity used in your household. Proper scheduled maintenance of your HVAC system helps to keep it running efficiently.

Also, if your HVAC unit is more than 15 years old, consider replacing it with a high efficiency system. That could cut your heating and cooling costs by 20-40%.

7 Tips for AC Maintenance

  1.  Change Your Air Filter Easy to do, but easy to forget. This one tip can have a big impact on the health of your HVAC system, and make it more efficient. Once the air filter clogs, the HVAC uses more energy to pull in air. For best results, replace your air filter monthly, especially if you have pets in the home. To remind yourself, replace it each month on a day you’ll remember, like the first of every month. Or add a recurring calendar notice on your phone.
  2. Clear the condensate drain. A clogged condensate drain pipe can make your AC system’s drain pan overflow. And believe us, there’s nothing fun about coming home to find water leaking into your home. Drain lines can become clogged with dirt, rust, algae and other debris. To keep your condensate pump free from mold and mildew, add a solution of 50% bleach/50% water to the access point, typically in your attic. Or, purchase a commercially available solution from your local A/C maintenance company or hardware store.
  3. Remove obstructions around your exterior system. Check the outside unit to ensure that it’s not clogged with sticks, leaves or grass clippings around the side of the unit. Plants may look pretty around the unit and hide it from view, but vegetation should not be within two fee of the unit. That ensures proper air flow.
  4. Clean your Evaporator Coil The external evaporator coil needs to be cleaned to perform efficiently. You can purchase no rinse evaporator coil cleaner online. Or you can clean your evaporator coil using a solution of dishwasher soap and distilled water, with a rinse of white vinegar.
  5. Check Your Duct Work.  Make sure your duct work is not sagging or ripped. Have leaks in your duct work repaired to increase your system’s efficiency and help your HVAC system cool your home more effectively.
  6. Check Refrigerant Levels. Too much or too little will make your system less efficient. Adjust refrigerant levels as necessary. Be sure to double check the insulation on refrigerant lines and replace them if missing or damaged
  7. Tighten Electrical Connections. Faulty electrical connections are a safety hazard you want to be sure to avoid.
  8. Schedule an A/C Check-Up. Oops! We know we said 7 top tips. But if some of these are beyond your comfort zone, it may be better to schedule an A/C tune-up.

What Should an A/C Check-Up Include?

Here are some of the things your A/C Tune-up should include

  • Blower Motor – measure amperage and voltage for proper operation
  • Thermostat – test for proper operation, calibrate and level
  • Bearing – inspect for wear and lubricate
  • Inspect indoor coil
  • Condensate Drain – flush and treat with anti-algae
  • Inspect Condenser Coil — The outside unit
  • Refrigerant – monitor operating pressures (you will likely have to pay extra for any coolant added to your system)
  • Inspect fan blade
  • Safety Devices – inspect for proper operation
  • Electrical Disconnect Box – inspect for proper rating and safe installation
  • Electrical Wiring – inspect and tighten connections
  • Inspect electrical for exposed wiring
  • Inspect and test capacitors
  • Clean condenser coil and remove debris
  • Inspect service valves for proper operation
  • Measure Supply/Return temperature differential
  • Inspect duct work for energy loss

Do I Qualify for a Free A/C Tune-Up from the Local Utility Company?

Heating and cooling costs are typically 50% of your electricity bill. Multiply that the number of houses in your area, and you have extremely high usage in the summer. Local utilities want to help you decrease your electricity usage. That way, they can ensure that the power grid can adequately supply all.

Here are some of the utility-sponsored free or discounted HVAC tune-up programs in your area.

Texas AC Tune-Up Programs

  • CenterPoint Energy. CenterPoint Energy Houston Electric offers a free HVAC tune-up to electricity customers in the Houston area. Their CoolSaver program is administered through retail energy providers (REPs). Contact your REP to find out if they participate in the CoolSaver program. You can also contact CenterPoint Energy Houston Electric at 866.688.2323 or go online.
  • AEP Texas. AEP Texas also offer free HVAC tune-ups through their AEP Texas Efficiency CoolSaver program. Sign up for the program through AEP-Central.
  • Oncor. Oncor does not offer an HVAC tune-up, but they do offer rebates on new HVAC systems, incentives toward insulation, and discount LED bulbs. Visit their site Take A Load Off Texas for more information.

Connecticut HVAC Check-Up Programs

  • United Illuminating. UI does not offer an A/C check-up program. However, they do offer a discounted home energy audit that could save you $200-$250 on your annual energy bills. They also offer HVAC rebates. Visit the UI site or call 1-877-947-3873 (877-WISE-USE)  for information.
  • Eversource. Eversource Connecticut does not offer an AC check-up program. Like UI, they offer an discounted energy audit by calling 1-877-947-3873 (877-WISE-USE).

Ohio AC Check-Up Programs

  • First Energy Companies. Homeowners served by The Illuminating Company, Ohio Edison, Toledo Edison may receive a rebate when they receive an HVAC tune-up from select companies. Contact your utility for information.
  • AEP Ohio.  AEP Ohio does not offer HVAC programs.
  • Duke Energy. Duke Energy offers HVAC rebate programs through their Smart $aver program.
  • DP&L. DP&L offers rebates on HVAC systems and programmable thermostats.

My A/C Isn’t Working…Now What?

Here’s what to do if your A/C isn’t working:

  1. Check the power. Make sure that wiring to your HVAC unit isn’t damaged.
  2. Check the thermostat. Make sure it’s flipped from heat to cool.
  3. Check the fuse box. Has a fuse been tripped?
  4. Check the filter. If your filter is very clogged, that could restrict air movement to the point that you don’t get any flow.
  5. Check the duct work for leaks. Are there holes in the duct work? In other words, are you air conditioning your attic? (Despite its name, don’t use duct tape to repair duct work. Duct tape will lose its sealing ability quickly. The proper sealant for duct leaks is a compound called mastic.)

If all else fails, it’s time to call the repair company.

Enjoy your Spring… Summer will be here before you know it!

About Rebecca Bridges

Rebecca Bridges has worked in deregulated energy markets since 2001. As chief marketing officer for ElectricityPlans, focuses on helping consumers save on their electricity bills and find the best electricity plans. Outside of work, Rebecca uses her marketing experience to support dog rescue and can often be found hiking or biking local trails.

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