It may still be chilly outside, but spring is just around the corner. When the warm weather starts creeping in, you have some tasks to tackle before turning your air conditioning on for the season. Handle these tasks early to help prevent breakdowns and problems with your air conditioning system throughout the year.

1. Vacuum Your Air Vents

Usually, you turn your heat off a few weeks before turning the air conditioner on for the first time. Your ducts sit unused during this time, and dust and dirt have a chance to build up in them — especially on and around the vents. If you turn the system on without cleaning the vents, dust will scatter throughout your home, and dust will also quickly clog your air filters.

To clean your air vents, all you need is a screwdriver and a vacuum cleaner with a wand attachment. Unscrew the first vent, and use the vacuum cleaner to suck up any dust stuck in the vent grates and also within the portion of the duct you can see. Screw the vent back into place, and move on to the next vent.

2. Stock Up on Air Filters

Changing your air filter every one to two months keeps your air conditioner working efficiently, helps keep your home clean, and even prevents excessive wear on your HVAC system. Many homeowners forget to change their air filter because doing so means running to the hardware store. This year, make filter replacement a priority by stocking up on air filters before the season even begins.

The low-end, fiberglass filters are sufficient to protect your air conditioner. However, if you have pets in your home or someone in the home has allergies, you should pay a few more dollars for a high-efficiency cotton filter than traps smaller particles.

3. Check for Refrigerant Leaks

One of the most common problems with air conditioners, especially older ones, is refrigerant leaks. As refrigerant leaks out of the air conditioner, the appliance becomes less effective at cooling your home. Your energy bills may climb, and your air conditioner may start turning on and off frequently, though your home never gets quite as cool as you'd hope.

Check for refrigerant leaks before the cooling season begins so you don't have to go without AC in the heat of summer. Turn your air conditioner on for a few minutes, and then look all around the compressor and evaporator coil for any drops of colored liquid. 

If you see drops of green liquid, your air conditioner runs a coolant called R-22 or Freon. Freon was used in older AC units and is being phased out. If your Freon unit is leaking, your HVAC technician will probably recommend replacing the air conditioner. If your AC is leaking rose-colored liquid, this is a newer coolant called Puron or R-410A. Your technician may repair the leak and add coolant to the system.

4. Clean Your Compressor

A clean air conditioner is an efficient air conditioner. To clean your outdoor air compressor, start by turning off the power supply and unscrewing the cover. Pull any leaves and debris out of the compressor, and then spray out smaller debris with a water hose. Let the unit dry, and then screw the cover back into place. Restore power to the unit.

If you follow the instructions above, your air conditioner will be properly prepped and ready for the warmer weather. If you notice anything amiss with your air conditioner or would like to schedule professional maintenance, contact the experts at A-1 Finchum Heating & Cooling for help ensuring your home stays cool.