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5 DIY steps for starting, maintaining your central air system

Here are some tips to get the most of your central air system and keep it running efficiently and strong all summer long.
Chad Humphrey, KSL Modified: May 2, 2014 at 12:15 pm •  Published: May 7, 2014

Homeowners know summers can be long and hot — but that doesn't mean your home can't be a sanctuary from the heat with a properly functioning air conditioner.

"Heating and cooling accounts for more than half of the energy use in a typical U.S. home, making it the largest energy expense for most homes," estimates

Here are five steps to get the most of your central air system and keep it running efficiently and strong all summer long.

1. Before you turn it on

Walk outside. Take a look at your condenser unit. If you covered the condenser over the winter, remove the cover before you turn it on. Remove any objects or vegetation within 18 inches. It's not a bad idea to take a hose with a nozzle and spray off the coils at a 45 degree angle to remove debris between the fins.

The inside part of your central air system is often overlooked by homeowners and this is where many problems begin. A regularly changed filter is the best thing you can do for your system.

"A dirty filter will slow down air flow and make the system work harder to keep you warm or cool," according to the energy efficiency website

Change it once a month in the summer with a pleated filter. Before you turn on your central air system for the first time make sure you have a new filter in place and that there are no gaps where the air can pass unfiltered.

Consider closing all the basement vents — to force cool air where it's needed most, upstairs.

2. Fire it up

Now that you've prepared your central air, it’s time to flip the switch. Turn your thermostat to “cool” and turn the fan to “auto." Turn the setting down to 68 degrees or so for the purpose of these next steps. Once you hear the system come on, go back outside to the condenser and make sure the fan is spinning. You should also hear the hum of the compressor. Walk back inside and listen for anything abnormal with the furnace blower. Should you see or hear anything unusual turn the system off immediately.

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