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How To Properly Turn On Your Air Conditioner The First Time After Winter

The birds are chirping. Your perennial bulbs are start to show life. And yes, we've already changed our clocks one hour ahead. That's right, spring is here.

While some spring weather appears to be on the way, we all know that a break in the weather means summer is rapidly approaching — and those summer temperatures are right around the corner!

Soon, you and many other homeowners will be looking for a cool break from your central air conditioning system. This summer, you want your HVAC system to perform at it's peak potential not only the first time you need it, but every time you turn your air conditioner on.

Before you get too excited about shutting off your central heating until next winter, you need to make sure your home's cooling system is ready for those incoming heat waves. Both indoor and outdoor unit components must be treated to properly prepare turning on your air conditioning after winter.

In this guide, we'll walk you through the process a professional HVAC technician from our team at ARS/Rescue Rooter takes before turning on their AC system for the first time after a long winter. This way you set your AC unit up for success for the entire summer.

When Should I Turn On My Air Conditioning for The First Time?

The answer isn't "on the first sizzling, steamy day of the year" if you believe it or not. You will regret waiting until you absolutely need the air conditioning before discovering there is a problem with the system.

Instead, plan a day when you'll be at home doing other spring tasks or just staying at home that day. Turn on the system and wait for a few minutes before checking to see if cool air is emerging from the vents. If there is no air or only cold air comes out of the vent, there is an issue with the system somewhere.

How long does it take for a home to cool the first time the air conditioner is turned on? It should only take a few minutes. Turning the temperature down drastically will not speed up the delivery of chilly air! This will put unnecessary strain on your AC system that has been off for several months.

If the air conditioner takes a long time to turn on, or blows warm air, or isn't blowing at all, get it looked at by the professionals. They know how to turn on your central air and assess your system. If repairs are required, you'll be relieved if this problem is taken care of ahead of time so that you don't swelter!

Now, on to the necessary steps for switching on your central air for the first time after winter...

Step 1. Clean Your Air Vents

Examine the supply and return air grills and vents. Are they open? You shouldn't close any air vents off. Is anything blocking them? Take a rag and clear away any dust over the grates. Before switching from heat to air conditioning, check for a yes answer to both questions. This will help the cool air coming through circulate more freely and cool your home more efficiently.

If you have HVAC dampers, now is also the time of year to make sure they are set to open so air flows to the second level of your home.

Step 2. Check Ductwork for Damage or Leaks

Your ducts must be prepared for the project. If any leaks are present, they will have to be fixed before you can turn on your AC. Unfortunately, inefficiencies in the home's heating and cooling systems cause a significant amount of energy loss through ductwork across the United States. In attics, crawlspaces, and basements, inspect all accessible ductwork.

You're searching for areas where there is damage or signs of air leaks to focus your air sealing efforts. These are most often felt along exposed ductwork sections, where duct tape is used, or any fallen or disconnected joints. Sealing up problem regions that you can see and requesting assistance from your HVAC contractor sealing air deals wherever you don't have access.

Step 3. Change Your HVAC filter

A dirty air filter can block airflow and reduce the efficiency of your AC unit. Air filters should be clean and free of debris in order for them to work properly. To allow for effective ventilation, check and replace your air filter regularly.

Examine your air filter at least once a month while utilizing your central heating and cooling system. If you have the permanent type, change the filter at least once every three months. Check the filter before turning on your air conditioner for the season just to be safe.

Step 4. Check Drain Lines

By the indoor cooling coil, there is a drain line in most cases positioned higher up in the basement. When dirt builds up on the inside coil of an air conditioner, its drain lines become clogged. You may keep your drain clear throughout the summer by flushing one cup chlorine bleach down your air conditioning drainage and rinsing it with a gallon of water.

Step 5. Check Circuit Breaker

The air conditioner's circuit breaker may have been tripped during the winter months, or you may have switched off the circuit breaker for your outdoor AC unit last fall. This spring, you’ll need to flip it back on again. Reset it ideally 24 hours before turning on your air conditioning after the winter.

However, if there’s a problem with the circuit board or you’re not sure which breaker controls the outdoor unit, contact a HVAC professional.

Step 6. Remove Outdoor Unit Cover

Some homeowners in the United States choose to utilize specific covers or even a solid piece of plywood to cover and protect the air conditioner's exterior during the winter. If you use these items, be sure to remove them before switching on your AC unit.

Leaving air conditioner covers on after spring arrives is a common error homeowners make that may do significant harm to the cooling system. You run the danger of increased wear to the system, which can reduce service life or result in major damage that necessitates component repair, replacement parts, or total system replacement.

Step 7. Inspect Condenser Unit

Your outdoor condenser unit has been inactive for months during the winter. Air conditioning condenser coils can get clogged with leaves, dirt, and other debris, therefore it needs to be inspected visually. Inspect the outdoor unit and its condenser for damage or detritus that may have accumulated over the winter months.

You should also look for any missing external panels on the unit. The unit's exterior panels on air conditioners are intended to cover and protect the unit's electrical connections from the elements.

Step 8. Inspect Refrigerant Lines

Insulation should be used on the lines feeding into the system. Good insulation will improve the air conditioner's efficiency. This will guarantee that your system is in good working order by checking for any leaks or damage to the refrigerant lines.

Adverse weather, even animals, may have damaged the insulating of the large copper pipe on the unit. Before operating your cooling system, you'll need to have a professional HVAC technician take care of it. Refrigerant or insulation repairs should be handled by an expert.

Step 9. Check Blower Fan Blades

The blades should be free of debris and in good condition. If there is any visible debris on the blower fan blades, it should be vacuumed clean and then wiped down. It's also good to tighten the mounting bolts and lubricate the motor if necessary.

Step 10. Clean The System's Exterior

Be sure to remove any leaves, twigs, or other debris that may have accumulated around the outdoor unit. Pollen and grass clippings from last summer can still be caked on the outside of the air conditioner. This can restrict airflow forcing your system to work harder on a hot day.

To wash away this grime, you can use your garden hose or a light pressure washer setting to give it a good cleaning.

Step 11. Prune Any Surrounding Landscaping

We don't usually think yard work when we think AC maintenance, but we do. Some homeowners landscape around the air conditioner to make their backyard more appealing to the eye. Bushes, flowers, and other plants that are ready to grow again in the spring will need to be trimmed back so they don't choke off airflow around the unit.

If you are planning to plant around your outdoor AC system this year, make sure you read the expected growing descriptions of you new plants and plant at least two feet away from the box.

Step 12. Check for Electrical Wiring Damage

Electrical issues to can not only cause cooling loss but can lead to expensive repairs. Inspect the wiring for any damage or fraying that may have occurred over the winter months. If you see anything that doesn't look right, call in HVAC experts to check the wiring and get the issue resolved.

Step 13. Check Your Thermostat

Now we get to the point where you turn on your air at your thermostat inside. Your programmable or smart thermostat will need to have the setting changed from "Heat" to "Cool". Make sure it is set to the correct temperature so that your AC doesn't have to work harder than necessary. This is also a good time to change your thermostat battery if you haven't in a while.

Once you turn on your air conditioning, go stand by your outdoor unit and watch and listen to it for about 15 minutes. This will be the first time since the cold months of winter it has kicked on, so you'll want to look for any signs of stress or issue once it start is first cycles. Then go back indoors and feel the air coming out of your vents to make sure it feels cool.

Step 14. Schedule Your Annual AC Tune-Up

Even after walking through all of these steps, it's a good idea to have professional maintenance on your AC unit performed by a locally licensed heating and air conditioning contractor. This once a year routine maintenance ensures it is running properly.

Regular maintenance once your switch on your AC after winter will catch any minor issues and save money by keeping energy bills this summer lower with an efficient running system. Maintaining good filtration, ductwork, coils, and hoses will not only keep you cool later in the summer, but it will also prevent expensive damage and replacements.

Let ARS/Rescue Rooter Wake Up Your Air Conditioner After Winter

When the weather starts to warm up and you're thinking about switching your air conditioning on after winter, trust the certified heating and air conditioning technicians at ARS/Rescue Rooter to set your system up for summer success.

Call us now at 866-399-2885 or find your nearest ARS/Rescue Rooter location to schedule an air conditioning tune-up today!

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