Many folks just flip the switch to the air conditioner on when the weather starts getting warm. However, it is possible that the AC system suffered some damage over the winter that needs to be corrected before turning it on. It is a good idea to take a few minutes to check your a/c system before turning it on.

Step One: Visual Inspection

Start by taking a good look to see if there is any visible physical damage. If you happen to see some minor flattening of the aluminum fins that cover the coils do not be alarmed. This would not be classified as a big problem. However, if you see large sections of the fins flattened, this will prevent air from flowing over the fins thus diminishing performance. A professional should be called on to address the issue of flattened fins. Look for any plant or animal debris blocking moving parts. A twig could block the fan of a central air unit from turning. Be sure to inspect carefully. Spiders, wasps, bees and hornets may have taken up residence.

Inspect power cables for damage. Outdoor units may have damage caused by rotary trimmers. Indoor units may have a plug or cord damaged by furniture, pets or a vacuum cleaner. Don’t just fix a damaged cord or cable. Have it replaced. Air conditioning units use lots of power to run. A damaged cord or cable can overheat and cause a fire.

Step Two: Clean The Unit and Filters

Outdoor units can be cleaned with a garden hose and some detergent. Avoid using a pressure washer because the high pressure might actually break sensitive parts or inject water into sealed housings. Beware when using your hose to clean the fins as the fins bend very easily. Clean or replace the filter of the indoor unit before turning it on. If a musty odor is present, a light spray of Lysol brand disinfectant on the metal coils may help.

Step Three: Do A Sound Check

When your system is turned on for the first time after the winter, it should sound the same as it did last year. Any strange or unusual rattling or grinding sounds will be a sign of a potential problem. A slight whistle or squeak that rapidly dissipates, should not be a concern. If it continues and does not dissipate, the unit should be shut off and a professional should be called.