What to do Before You Turn Your A/C on For the First Time This Year

The cool, winter months are coming to a close, and it will soon be time to turn our air conditioners back on to get us through another hot Arizona summer. Before we do that, though, we need to get our A/C units ready for the hard work ahead.

If there are problems with your air conditioning system, it’s best to know now so you can address any issues before the temperature rises.

Here are some steps to take before you turn on your A/C for the first time this year:

Start with your condenser unit outside.

  1. Remove any plants or other debris within an eighteen-inch perimeter around the unit.

Debris around the unit can reduce airflow and efficiency.

  1. If you haven’t had your A/C system professionally serviced for the cooling season, you can clean the condenser coils and fins yourself if you feel confident tackling the job.

First, turn off the power to the A/C at the breaker. Never try to clean the unit without turning off the power for safety.

The condenser coils and fins must be clean for your system to cool your home efficiently.

Remove the protective grille panels around the coils. Spray the coils with coil cleaner or a mixture of water and dish soap and let them sit for several minutes.

Spray the coils with a garden hose to rinse the cleaning solution off.

If any of the fins are bent, you can straighten them using a ‘fin comb’ tool you can purchase at a hardware store.

Call a professional technician if the panel protecting the electrical components is damaged or missing.  Don’t attempt to start your A/C system until a pro inspects the electrical components.

Reattach the protective grille panels around the unit.

  1. Check the large refrigerant pipe that runs from the condenser to the air handler inside.

Repair any insulation surrounding the pipe that looks damaged.

Once you’ve completed your inspection and cleaning of the condenser unit, you can turn the power back on at the breaker.

Now it’s time to prepare the inside part of your air conditioning system for the startup.

Here’s what to check inside your home:

  1. Replace the air filter.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, the most essential task to ensure the efficiency of your HVAC system is to change the filters regularly. In the summer months in Arizona, that can be as often as once a month.

A clean filter can lower your home’s energy consumption, as your unit won’t have to work as hard.  Your indoor air quality will be better, too.

Air filters have what’s known as a MERV rating which measures their ability to capture particles.  MERV stands for Minimum Efficiency Reporting Values.

MERV ratings range from 1-20, and the higher the rating, the better the filter captures certain types of particles such as dust.

Not every system can handle a filter with a higher MERV rating, so you should check with an HVAC pro to determine the best filter for your system.

Using a filter with a higher rating than your system can accommodate may lower the airflow and make your air conditioner work harder to cool your home.

Write the date you installed it on the new filter, so you’ll know when you last changed each one.

  1. Check the condensate drain line to ensure it’s not clogged.

The condensate drain line runs through your home’s central air conditioning system and goes to the outside. It’s important because it prevents moisture from building up in your home that could cause damage and allow mold or mildew to flourish.

First, check the drip pan for water at the air handler unit. If there’s standing water in the pan, it’s a sign that the drain line needs a cleanout.

Remove the water from the pan with a wet vac or soak it up with rags and wipe the pan clean.

The condensate line has an exit point at the outside of your home. You may have seen water dripping from it in the past while your air conditioner was running.

The line needs to be kept clear so moisture can flow out.

You can use a stiff wire to loosen any debris that may have gotten into the line or suction it out with a wet vac.

  1. Check the air vents throughout your home.

Make sure all the air vents are open and check them for dust and dirt. If they don’t look clean, wipe them down or use a vacuum to clean them.  Dirty vents will impact your indoor air quality.

Your A/C system is meant to work with all the vents open, so you should never have more than 10% of the vents closed when running the system.

Your ductwork should also be in top shape before turning on your air conditioner, so have any needed repairs performed before turning on the A/C.

  1. Set the thermostat.

Turn your thermostat to the ‘cool’ setting and set the fan on ‘auto.’ Then set the thermostat to around 68 degrees and let the air run for 10-15 minutes.

If you still have a manual thermostat, you should consider upgrading to a programmable thermostat for increased efficiency and energy savings. Chas Roberts can install a programmable thermostat in an ideal location in your home.

Once the A/C is running, the fan on the outdoor condenser unit should be spinning, and your home should be getting cooler.

If you hear any strange sounds or the air coming from the vents doesn’t feel cool, turn off the system and call an HVAC professional for service.


The time to get your A/C system ready for summer is before it gets hot outside.

Chas Roberts has a 26-point maintenance checklist that includes:

  • Check refrigerant levels
  • Inspect disconnect switch
  • Clean condenser coil
  • Test safety controls
  • Lubricate all moving parts
  • And more

Regular maintenance is essential to keep your A/C system running smoothly and efficiently throughout the summer. Thoroughly inspecting your system and addressing any potential problems will ensure you and your home stay cool all summer long.

Family-owned Chas Roberts has been in business for over 75 years and is Arizona’s largest HVAC and plumbing provider. Contact us for quality, reliable service.