Evaluating Your New Home's Air Conditioning System

There's a honeymoon phase when moving into a new home, but that period can quickly give way to noticing the many minor flaws and fixes present in any house. If you didn't perform a pre-purchase HVAC inspection, you might see some issues with the existing system. Recognizing and repairing these problems can be a critical part of avoiding essential repairs.

While the best way to evaluate the condition of your AC system is to hire a professional for a full inspection, there are a few things you can do on your own. This guide will outline three steps to quickly and easily evaluate the condition of your new home's AC system.

Step 1: Check the Filter

Before doing anything else, locate your air handler (usually in the basement) and check the filter's condition. If the filter looks dirty or old, replace it before running the system. You can usually find the dimensions of the filter along the side or printed somewhere on the face. For now, replace your filter with one that's a close match to the filter already in place.

Using an air conditioner with a clogged filter can create numerous issues and even cause damage, so don't proceed with the rest of your tests until taking this step. It's also an excellent idea to get into the habit of checking your filter at least once every month.

Step 2: Turn It On

Start by running the system, even if it's not particularly hot outside. You can force the system to come on by switching your thermostat to cooling mode and choosing a setpoint below the current interior temperature. You can safely run home air conditioning units as long as the outside temperature is above 60 degrees. If it's colder than this, you'll need to wait until the temperatures increase.

Your first goal is simply to ensure that the system comes on. You should feel a breeze from your vents within a minute or two of adjusting the thermostat setpoint. Make sure that the air feels cool, steady, and dry. Moisture, inconsistent airflow, or warm AC air can all indicate a brewing problem with your home's air conditioning unit.

Step 3: Observe the Condenser

The condenser is the large unit outside your home. Have a helper turn the system on from inside the house while you listen near the condenser unit. You will hear the compressor turn on, and the fan on top should immediately start spinning. The compressor may vibrate for a few moments on start-up, but the sound should smooth out relatively quickly.

If you notice the fan isn't spinning or you hear continuous rattling, vibrating, or humming noises, it's a good idea to stop using the system as soon as you can. Issues with the condenser can often lead to expensive compressor damage, so it's best to deal with them as quickly as possible. If you're not sure, call in a professional to perform a complete system inspection.

For more information on air conditioning units and how they should perform, contact a professional near you.