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How to make sure your AC is ready for extreme heat

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. -- With extreme heat coming to central Indiana in the next couple of days, local experts are recommending you check your air conditioning unit to make sure it’s ready to keep you cool.

Dave Mejean, co-owner of B&W Plumbing, Heating, Cooling and Drains, says most people can avoid AC problems with regular maintenance and by checking specific parts of the machinery.

This air filter shows heavy dust and dirt, which can lead to problems with an AC unit.

The first thing you can do is choose the right filter for your AC unit.  The filter catches dirt and dust in the air and keeps it from flowing into your home and clogging up the AC unit.

“What’s highly recommended is you use a pleated filter,” Mejean said.  “Now you’re going to change it more often because it’s catching more dirt.”

Mejean recommends changing the air filter every few months to maintain clean airflow from the AC to the rest of the home.

Next, Mejean recommends checking the outdoor unit of the AC system.  Look to see if the metallic condensing coil is coated with dirt, dust or grass.

Dirt and dust coating this AC unit eventually caused mechanical failure.

“If it gets plugged up like this, then the compressor runs harder, the pressure is built up higher, the unit become inefficient,” Mejean said.  “And the unit doesn’t put out the cooling like it needs to be.”

The outdoor AC unit is designed to withstand rain and other elements, so if it’s coated with dirt, it can be cleaned off with a a water hose, Mejean said.

Next, you can check the copper pipes coming from the indoor part of the AC system.  That’s normally located in the garage of a home.  The copper lines connect to the cooling coil inside the machine.

“And I always ask people, do you notice any kind of ice building up on there?” Mejean said.  “Because that’s a sign that you’ve got either an airflow problem or a freon problem”

If your AC unit isn’t cooling the air like it should, it could be running low on freon.  Since freon never goes bad, Mejean says that’s a sign that your AC unit may have a freon leak.

Overall, Mejean says AC units should get an annual maintenance checkup to ensure the system is running properly.  He recommends entering a service agreement with the company of your choice.  Annual maintenance visits should cost between $175 and $200, which is much better than a repair or replacement call that could cost in the thousands of dollars.

Here are more tips offered by B&W Plumbing, Heating, Cooling and Drains:

  • Check filters: 1’’ filters need to be replaced every 30-60 days
  • Use pleated filters
  • Keep all registers open
  • Keep the coil on the outdoor unit clean; remove grass clippings, leaves, dirt, etc.
  • Freon lasts forever: If you have to add it, you have a leak
  • Your AC does two things; cools the air and removes humidity
  • Don’t use the setback feature on your thermostat during excessive heat waves, your system may not be able to recover
  • Close curtains or blinds to block direct sunlight from windows
  • Turn the thermostat fan setting from “auto” to “on” to keep the fan moving air even when the AC isn’t cooling the air
  • If your home seems to not cool during the heat of the day, you may have a utility energy saver box that turns your system off for several hours during peak periods
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