Before you crank up the AC this spring, make sure everything is clean and in working order to avoid a summertime meltdown.
There’s nothing like the cool blast from the AC on a sweltering summer day, but in Chicago, there are a few things you should know before you turn down the temperature and turn on the air conditioner.
It’s important to make sure your air conditioner is ready to go before the weather gets too warm.
Tony Filippelli of AirTek Heating and Air Conditioning in Plainfield, Illinois, says there are several common AC maintenance issues to keep an eye out for in Chicagoland.
1. Clean your outdoor AC unit
Cleanliness is key when it comes to air conditioner maintenance, Filippelli says, and outdoor AC units should be cleaned annually.
“If you’ve never had it professionally cleaned, it’s a must,” he says.
In Illinois, spring brings the white fluffy seeds of cottonwood trees, which float through the air like clouds. That white fluff can get inside your AC unit and stick to the condenser like glue, Filippelli says.
Unless you have your air conditioner properly cleaned, “It’s going to build up and your unit’s going to break down in the middle of the summer,” he warns.
2. Watch for winter weather damage
You probably weren't thinking about air conditioning during the dead of winter, but Chicago’s fierce cold can cause problems you won’t discover until it’s time to turn on the AC.
Subzero temperatures cause the copper coils in AC units to expand and contract, creating leaks. When the first heat wave hits, you could find yourself low on refrigerant, Filippelli says.
Those copper coils also make tempting targets for opportunistic metal thieves, who strike during the winter when a broken or missing air conditioner won't be noticed.
3. Evict unwanted wildlife
Chicago winters can also cause rodents to seek refuge wherever they can — including inside appliances.
“Mice are looking for a warm place to live,” says Filippelli, and they often take shelter inside AC units, where they can wreak havoc and chew through parts.
4. Schedule an AC tune-up
Filippelli cautioned against attempting to check for air conditioner maintenance problems — or root out rodents — yourself.
“You’re talking about 230 volts of power,” he says. “Unless you’re an electrician, it’s not something a homeowner should do.”
To make sure your air conditioner is ready for summer weather, Filippelli says it’s best to schedule an HVAC inspection around mid- to late April. The temperature has to be around 70 degrees to allow your HVAC technician to get accurate readings and make sure everything is working properly, he says.
Before hiring an HVAC contractor, Filippelli says it’s wise to browse reviews from customers on sites like Angie’s List and check that they’re a licensed contractor on the Secretary of State’s website.