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How to Prepare Your AC For Summer and Prevent Breakdowns [Checklist]

How to Prepare Your AC For Summer and Prevent Breakdowns [Checklist]

Summer is on its way. And the last thing you want to deal with in the middle of the heat is an air conditioning breakdown.

Have no fear! We’ve put together a checklist of 4 things you can do to get your AC ready now to help prevent a repair later.

Change your air filter

What to do: Find your air filter and change it if it looks dirty. For reference, here’s the difference between a clean and dirty filter.

dirty air filter next to clean air filter
Left: clean filter, Right: dirty filter

Why it’s important: When your air filter is dirty, it suffocates your air conditioner. The AC’s blower can’t pull in the air it needs to run properly and ends up working harder to cool your home. This constant running increases your energy bills and places stress on your AC’s internal parts, causing them to break down sooner.


Make sure all vents are open and clear

What to do: Go through your home and make sure all the air vents in your home are open and not blocked by furniture or drapery. 

Keep supply vents open
An open supply vent

Why this is important: Closing air conditioning vents is a bad idea for a couple reasons:

  • Increases energy bills. Closed vents increase the pressure in your AC system’s ductwork, which makes the air conditioner work harder and ends up increasing duct leaks. Both of these problems increase your energy bills.
  • Increases risk of parts breaking. Any time the air conditioner is working harder than it needs to, you’re placing additional stress on it. And that stress can cause parts to break.
  • Learn more about The Costly Consequences of Closing Your Home’s Air Vents.

Check the AC’s condensate drain

What to do: With the AC running, look for the condensate drain line, a small PVC pipe that’s usually near the outside unit. Is the pipe dripping water? Good! That means the drain line is clear. 

This is the main condensate drain line near the bottom of the wall, near your AC unit. It should be dripping water.

But if the secondary drain line (usually located above the outside unit) is dripping water, the main condensate line needs clearing.

Backup condensate line
That PVC pipe is the backup condensate drain. If it’s dripping, you have a clog in the main drain.

Why this is important: When your air conditioner cools your air, it also removes humidity. That humidity is drained out of your home through the condensate drain. If the drain clogs, the water can overflow into your home and cause serious water damage.

Clear around the outside AC unit

What to do: Clear a 3-foot area around your outdoor air conditioner of weeds, tall grass, bushes, etc and get any leaves or tree trimmings out of the grill of the unit.

These bushes are too close and likely sapping this air conditioner's energy efficiency. Photo source: Alexander Michalak

Why this is important: The outdoor unit is responsible for dumping of all the heat to the outside air that your indoor AC unit pulled out of your home. To do this really well, the outdoor unit needs unobstructed airflow. Even small obstructions like leaves can reduce the unit’s efficiency.

And if the outdoor unit’s coil gets really dirty, it can cause your air conditioner to blow hot air or overheat and trip your breaker.

Get your AC unit professionally cleaned and tuned up

What to do: Schedule an AC tune-up and cleaning with an air conditioning professional.

Why this is important: Like your car, your air conditioner needs professional maintenance to work at peak efficiency and keep the warranty intact.

 A professional AC tune-up usually includes: 

  • Cleaning the evaporator coil
  • Cleaning the condenser coil
  • Checking and charging the refrigerant (if needed)
  • Inspecting electrical connections

Without this maintenance, your air conditioner will work harder all summer, making it more likely that the AC will break down.

MSP Plumbing, Heating and Air has served the Minneapolis-St. Paul metro area since 1918.