A few simple ways to make sure your air conditioner will be able to take the heat.

You should have your A/C serviced every year in the early spring before temperatures and humidity start climbing. But it can be hard to book a service appointment, especially since the best contractors tend to also be the busiest. But that’s cool, because you can perform most A/C maintenance tasks on your own. Here's what you need to know to do your own A/C tune-up.

Change the air filter.

You’ll find them in your furnace and A/C blower, between the large fresh air return duct and the furnace itself. You may need a screwdriver to remove the cover. Remove the old filter and put a fresh one in its place, matching up the airflow direction arrows to those on your unit. You should replace your filter at least every six months, more often if you live with pets or someone with respiratory issues.

Shut off power to the unit.

Before you start taking apart your outdoor unit to clean and service it, find the shutoff box on the outside of your home near the unit. Open it and shut off the power, either by pulling a plug or removing a fuse. And make sure you shut off power to the A/C at the breaker box inside your home.

Clean the inside of the condenser.

Use a screwdriver, nut driver or wrench to remove the top of the cage from the outdoor unit. Take out the fan, too, if it's not attached to the top. Give the fan blades a spin to make sure they haven't locked up over the winter. Pull out leaves, sticks, and other debris with your hands or a shop vac.

Clean and straighten the fins.

Cleaning condenser coils is simple—as long as you take it easy. Too much water pressure or a heavy hand can easily cause damage. Use a soft brush attachment on your shop vac to gently vacuum dust and debris from the coils or wash them with a gentle spray from a garden hose.

Carefully straighten any bent fins with a butter knife or a fin comb (yes, that’s an actual tool). Make sure not to damage the pipes inside the fins.

Clear plants and debris from around the unit.

To get the airflow to work properly, your outdoor A/C unit needs at least two feet of clearance. Remove weeds, plants, and debris close to it, along with any garden plants. If you camouflage the unit with some type of structure, make sure it provides enough ventilation.

Level the unit.

If your A/C unit isn't level, it could cut out on you before its time. Check the concrete pad it rests on to make sure it's even. If it isn't, pry it up with a board and level it by placing gravel underneath.

At Frontdoor, we know you love getting things done around the house. Staying in control of your to-do list is easier when you can keep the small things from turning into bigger—and more expensive—ones. We’re here to make it easier to prevent problems instead of reacting to them. We help you gain the peace of mind that comes with staying on top of your home’s health.

Want to learn more about keeping your HVAC unit running smoothly, or anything else about keeping your house in great shape? Download the app if you haven’t already, and chat with a helpful, friendly Frontdoor expert.

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