Air Conditioning: Maintain and Upgrade Your System

Achim Hering [GFDL or CC BY 3.0 ]/Wikimedia Commons

Hot, sunny weather is just around the corner. That means it’s time to get your air conditioner in shape. Here’s how to get the best out of your A/C this summer, with practical tips on maintaining and upgrading your system.


Change or clean the filter. A simple DIY way to maintain your air conditioning in great working order is to change your filter regularly (or cleaning a reusable version), especially during periods of heavy use. This ensures proper airflow and keeps dirt out of the system’s coils. Follow the manufacturer’s directions; usually every 30 to 90 days is recommended. Take care of this task more frequently if you have a cat or dog, live in a very dusty or polluted area, or suffer from allergies.

Tune-up. Schedule an A/C tune-up annually. Best time is in spring, before the period of heavy use begins, or in fall, when you’re ready to “retire” the air conditioner till next year. Your air conditioning service pro should clean and inspect the system and test performance of key components. The tune-up optimally includes a report on the current condition of your A/C, and also recommendations on avoiding potential problems. TIP: Hands-on homeowners might want to watch the tune-up process to better understand how the system works. This will help you troubleshoot if anything goes wrong in future.

Home service plan. An air conditioning service contract with a reliable HVAC firm may be a good idea for several reasons. First of all, if you are juggling multiple responsibilities (and who isn’t, these days?), you will have one item you can cross off your to-do list. Second, you’ll get priority scheduling for your air conditioning service – both tune-ups and emergency even during the busy season. Third, you will often benefit from preferred pricing and extended warranties on repairs. Before signing the contract, read the fine print to see exactly what it includes.

Duct cleaning. A certain amount of dust in HVAC ductwork is normal and won’t harm the system or impair your home’s indoor air quality. However, if your ducts are seriously clogged with dust, pet hair, and other debris; are releasing dust into your rooms; or are moldy, have them cleaned and get rid of the source of any mold growth, so that it won’t recur. Duct cleaning is usually a 2-step process: dislodging dirt with special equipment and then using a powerful vacuum cleaner to remove it completely.


Change the filter. No, you’re not looking at a typo. In the case of an upgrade, “change the filter” means start using a kind that will do a better job. Disposable A/C filters are cheap and convenient, but for more effective filtering of small particles such as mold and pollen, substitute electrostatic or preferably, pleated “allergy” filters.

Install ceiling fans. Circulate conditioned air more effectively with ceiling fans. Ceiling fans are energy-efficient and affordable to run, and will boost the benefit you get from your air conditioner, which means you’ll spend less on electricity for the same level of cool comfort.

Add a smart thermostat. Install a smart thermostat – it’s a smart step to ensure that your house is cooled when you need it most without wasting A/C if you’re away from home or not using a particular room.

Downsize. When it’s time to replace your old air conditioning, service pros advise that you can downsize for even more energy savings … provided you’ve done your homework first. That means sealing and insulating your home and your ductwork. Not only is a “right-sized” A/C system cheaper to run, it will last longer and experience less wear and tear due to overly frequent on-off cycling. Talk to an HVAC professional about the type of air conditioning you need.

Check SEER rating. Another important factor in purchasing new air conditioning is the SEER or seasonal efficiency rating. This measures performance and ranges from 10 (the minimum requirement these days) up to 26. The higher the SEER, the less you will pay annually to run your air conditioning.

Laura Firszt writes for

Get Free Quotes

Looking for a Pro? Call us at (866) 441-6648

Get Free Quotes
  • Service Needed
  • Zip Code
Get quotes from qualified local contractors