It’s a monumental day: the first day you turn on your AC unit. Here in Florida, that day comes earlier than it does in other states. When you turn on your AC unit, you expect it to blast cool air that will provide a welcome relief to everyone in your house. You don’t expect it to sputter and fail to turn on, or to send out a blast of air that’s anything but cold.

To prevent first-day-of-AC blues, perform some important maintenance early on. These tips will help keep your AC unit in tip-top shape all summer long.

Get Professional Maintenance

To make sure your AC unit continues to function all summer long (and for many years to come), invest in an annual or biannual inspection. An AC technician can inspect your unit and determine whether there are leaks, malfunctioning parts, or other issues that require repair. He or she will:

  • Clean and/or inspect fan belts, coils, blowers, fans, and controls
  • Lubricate motors and bearings
  • Evaluate air pressure and temperature
  • Check refrigerants
AC technicians can also improve the quality of your air with duct cleaning. They use advanced equipment like specialized blowers, vacuums, and brushes to remove dust, pet hair, or mold buildup in your ducts and your AC unit. You should get your ducts cleaned every 3 to 5 years.

Reduce Strain on Your AC Unit

You can ensure your AC unit doesn’t overwork by taking other steps to keep your home cool. You can do so by:

  • Running fans
  • Keeping blinds and shades down during the day
  • Install proper insulation
  • Adding awnings to south-facing windows
Wearing light, breathable clothing and drinking plenty of water will also help you feel cool and less likely to crank up your AC.

Upgrade If Needed

Just 10 years ago, AC units didn’t have to meet as many requirements. Now, AC units are built to be energy-efficient. The SEER (seasonal energy-efficiency ratio) tells us how much energy an AC unit uses per hour. Ideally, central units should have a SEER of 13 or higher. The higher the number, the less an AC unit costs to cool your home.

If your unit is10 years old or older, replacing it could lower your utility bills. In addition, if your AC unit requires many repairs to restore functionality, it may be less expensive to replace it.

Talk to a licensed AC technician about replacing your AC unit.

Change the Filter Monthly

The air filter is one of the most important components of your AC unit. It removes and cleans particles in the air stream. But air filters have a dirty job-they get clogged with dirt, which reduces your AC unit’s airflow.

Professionals recommend that you change the filter every month to keep your AC unit working at top efficiency. The filter is located in the return air duct, either on the metal cover or within the unit. Make sure you choose the right air filter size. Look for a number label on your old filter that will tell you the correct measurements. Here’s how you change it:

  1. Turn off the power to your unit.
  2. Remove the old filter.
  3. Clean dust in the filter with a paper towel.
  4. Look at the arrows in the air filter frame as a guide for which way to put in the new filter (if airflow goes to the right, the air filter arrow should point to the right).
  5. Place the new air filter. If there’s space for air to escape, add tape or cloth between the frame and air filter.
Again, if you feel uncomfortable doing this, call a professional.

Fix Leaks

If your AC unit has leaks, you’re losing air. You can temporarily patch leaks in your ductwork by applying foil tape, and leaks in your unit by placing foam between the unit and the window frame. If leaks persist, talk to a licensed AC professional.

Just like your body needs regular food, water, and exercise to stay healthy, your AC unit needs regular checkups and maintenance to keep you cool every summer. Don’t ignore your AC unit; give it the attention it deserves. Your air conditioner is just like your car, only it runs many more hours per day. Thus, just like your car, it requires tune-ups and proper maintenance.

Call a professional licensed AC company for repairs and upgrades before the summer heat kicks in.