Air conditioners provide homeowners around Tampa not only relief from the summer heat but also safety from the extreme humidity. However, your air conditioner will not work as effectively or efficiently if it’s not properly maintained. Consider these 10 maintenance tips to prepare your AC to survive the Florida summer.

1. Change or Clean AC Air Filters

Air filters are critical for keeping harmful airborne contaminants out of your HVAC system. Depending on your system, you need to either clean or change the air filter to prevent harmful airflow restrictions.

Ductless systems commonly have washable filters that need cleaning about every two weeks. Central systems typically use disposable filters. The smaller 1- and 2-inch filters need changing every 30 to 90 days depending on their construction. Larger filters may last several months to as much as a year in some cases. Plan to check your filter every month so that you catch it as soon as it needs changing before it can strain your system or reduce its efficiency.

2. Change Thermostat Settings and Programs

Start by checking that the time setting made the time shift to Daylight Savings Time. Next, ensure that you have your fan set to “Auto.” If you have a heat pump, set the mode to “Cool” rather than “Auto,” which can make the system flip back and forth between heating and cooling.

Next, check the temperature programs to ensure they reflect the longer days and the warmer weather. Remember, the Department of Energy recommends that your thermostat be set to about 78 degrees for best cooling efficiency.

3. Clean and Clear Your Outside AC Unit

The outside unit, commonly called “the condensing unit” for central air conditioners, plays a critical role in venting the heat absorbed from inside your home. Whenever air can’t flow through the unit effectively, the system won’t vent that heat, which then destroys cooling efficiency and can even make your system blow hot air.

Start by gently cleaning the unit with water from a garden hose without a spray nozzle. Be careful to avoid using high pressure. This is especially important in the Tampa area with the excess salt in the air.

Next, ensure that the unit has the minimum recommended 2-foot clearance around the sides. It should also have a 5-foot clearance above the unit to allow air to vent upward. Inspect the coil fins to ensure they aren’t bent flat, which will also restrict air from flowing through them.

4. Inspect Your Vents

Building on the concept of increased airflow through the system, your vents must be open and clear to ensure that conditioned air circulates properly. Ensure that all of your vents are open, even in areas that you may not use frequently.

Next, make sure that every supply vent has enough clearance to allow air to flow from it and create the needed positive pressure. Most professionals agree that you need at least 6 inches of clearance both above and around each vent. Be sure that you don’t have low furniture covering them or crowding too closely around your vents.

5. Have Your Ducts Cleaned if Needed

Your ducts will collect dust, dirt, and other contaminants over time, which will eventually restrict air flowing through the system. It’s a great idea to have your ducts cleaned in the spring before the excessive humidity settles in for the summer as this can cause issues with allergens.

Duct cleaning is not something that you need every year. Rather, the industry recommendation is to have them professionally cleaned every three to five years. However, you may need it more frequently if someone in your home is especially sensitive to air quality, you are doing some home renovations or projects, or you have an inside hobby that produces a lot of dust or chemical off-gassing, like painting or woodworking.

6. Upgrade an Aging Thermostat

Thermostats won’t last forever, and when they age, they may cause the system to initiate or terminate cooling cycles inappropriately. Most modern digital thermostats have an expected service life of 10 to 15 years, which is about the same as your air conditioner or heat pump. If your thermostat is older than this, consider upgrading to a newer model — a smart thermostat may serve your home better and make it more efficient. When upgrading, be sure that your new thermostat is compatible with your system.

7. Prepare Your Ceiling Fans

Ceiling fans are an important part of keeping your home comfortable and reducing your energy bills. While they don’t reduce the air temperature, they do make it feel cooler by moving air around, which is known as “the wind chill effect.”

To prepare your fans for summer, turn them off and clean off the blades, which you can do with a rag or a specialty brush if you need help reaching them. Next, flip the switch on the body of the fan motor to change the direction the fan spins. During the summer the fan should spin counterclockwise.

8. Prepare Your Dehumidifier

With the excess humidity in the air around Tampa, your home will remain more comfortable when you manage the humidity level inside. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommends maintaining an indoor humidity level between 30% and 50%.

Get your dehumidifier out of storage. If you didn’t do so before winter, change or clean its filter and coil. If you have a whole-house dehumidifier, check your drain line to ensure that it’s clean. For models with an on-board reservoir, check that the reservoir is clean before starting it for the season.

9. Level Your Condensing Unit

The condensing unit sits outside and contains the condensing coil and the compressor. If the unit isn’t level, it’ll cause separation of the lubricant, restricting coolant flow into your home. An unleveled compressor can also strain the refrigerant lines, leading to leaks. Most units are now installed on a concrete slab to keep the unit level.

10. Schedule Spring HVAC Maintenance

Aside from keeping your system’s air filter clean, routine maintenance is the best way to get the longest life and most effective performance from your system. During HVAC maintenance, a technician starts by deep cleaning your system, including the circulating fan, the indoor evaporator coil, and the outside condensing coil. They’ll also check and tighten electrical connections and mounting hardware to prevent strain from excessive electrical resistance and vibration.

Finally, they’ll run a series of tests, from testing the cooling cycle to testing individual components. The goal is to identify small problems that may not have resulted in perceptible performance issues yet. You can then have these fixed before they turn into larger problems like mid-summer emergency breakdowns.

Since 2010, the Ahoy! Cooling & Heating team has brought the highest quality HVAC service to property owners around the Tampa Bay area. We proudly offer heating and AC maintenance, repair, and installation along with zoning systems and indoor air quality solutions, including duct cleaning and air purification. Call to schedule an AC maintenance with one of our expert HVAC technicians today.

company icon