ARLINGTON – With the spring season in full swing, the Air-Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute (AHRI) reminds homeowners that this is the ideal opportunity to prepare their cooling equipment for the hot summer months to ensure it operates at its highest efficiency.

“Heating and cooling is the single biggest energy consumer in a home, and accounts for about 40 percent of all the energy used by homeowners,” said Steve Yurek, president and CEO of AHRI. “That’s why taking steps to ensure the unit is running as efficiently as possible can help offset cooling costs this summer.”

AHRI offers homeowners the following tips on how to keep their central air conditioning units running efficiently:

  • Check the air filter and change it if it’s dirty, or according to the manufacturer’s recommendation, to keep dust from collecting on the evaporator coil fins. Keeping your filter clean can cut energy consumption 5- to 15-percent. Turn off the power to the furnace before pulling the filter out so that the fan doesn’t come on and blow dust throughout the home. Be sure to position the new filter according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Clear away leaves, grass, weeds, plants, and other debris that block airflow through the outdoor condensing unit, which is the large metal box in your yard next to your home. Anything that collects on the unit’s fins will block airflow and reduce its efficiency. Grass clippings thrown by the lawn mower are particularly common offenders.
  • Occasionally clean the outdoor condensing unit by spraying it with a water hose.
  • Check to make sure air conditioning vents inside your home are not obstructed by furniture.
  • Closing off unused rooms and closing vents in those rooms can help; however, homeowners should consider adding zone controls to automatically set back the temperature in unused areas. Doing so can cut cooling costs as much as 20 percent.
  • Set the fan speed on high except in very humid weather. When it’s humid, set the speed on low; you will get less cooling, but the air circulation will make it feel cooler.

AHRI also suggests that homeowners hire a professional to service their air conditioner. A well-trained technician will find and fix problems in the system. Homeowners should be aware, however, that not all service technicians have the same level of training. Look for a technician that is certified by North American Technician Excellence (NATE). You can find a NATE-certified technician online at Be sure to insist that the technician:

  • Check for the correct amount of refrigerant and test for refrigerant leaks.
  • Capture any refrigerant that must be evacuated from the system.
  • Check for and seal duct leakage in central systems.
  • Measure air flow through the evaporator coil.
  • Check the accuracy of the thermostat.
  • Verify the correct electric control sequence and make sure that the heating system and cooling system cannot operate simultaneously.
  • Inspect electric terminals, clean and tighten connections, and apply a non-conductive coating if necessary.
  • Check belts and oil motors for tightness and wear.

“With proper maintenance, central air conditioning units should last at least 12 to 15 years,” said Yurek. “Homeowners need to regularly service their central air conditioners to keep them running smoothly. Spring is a great time to think about getting service before hot weather arrives and the rush for service is in full swing,” he added.