You wait for this moment every year. As the weather gets warmer and warmer, you try to resist turning on the air conditioning for the first time. How much will you sweat before you give in to the heat? Maybe you’re on the other end of the spectrum and can’t wait for any excuse to create a deep chill in your home.

Hold on a second. What’s that funky smell? What’s that loud noise you’ve never heard before? And why isn’t your home getting any cooler?!?

Steps to Turn on Your A/C for the First Time After Winter

Actually, let’s talk about what NOT to do when you turn on your A/C for the first time after winter. Do not just turn it on and walk away! This is when you can identify warning signs that something isn’t quite right and address any issues immediately.

Here are the basic steps to follow when turning on your A/C for the first time after winter:

  • Change the filter. This should be done every month or two depending on your system and filter, but you definitely want a fresh filter installed before you crank up the A/C.
  • Make sure vents aren’t obstructed. Obstructed vents make it tough to evaluate how effectively your unit is working.
  • Remove any debris from around the A/C unit. This can affect the performance of your system.
  • Turn on the A/C and write down anything that doesn’t seem quite right (smells, noises, warm air, etc.).
  • If you haven’t scheduled your spring maintenance yet, do it now!

Why Does the A/C Smell Musty After Winter?

A musty smell, sometimes called “dirty sock syndrome,” comes from bacteria or mold that built up somewhere in the unit, whether in the drain, evaporator coil, drip pan, or drain line. A/C systems are dark and damp, making them ripe for bacteria and mold growth.

Although a musty smell is common, it shouldn’t be ignored. Routine maintenance by an HVAC professional will pinpoint the cause so issues can be addressed.

Signs that You Need to Replace Your Air Conditioning Unit

Ultimately, you should let an HVAC professional make this determination, but here are some warning signs of a problem.

  • A system that’s more than 12-15 years old could be reaching its end of life.
  • Warm air and/or limited air flow. There could be many causes of these problems, but they could indicate your system is incapable of performing as it should.
  • Odd sounds. Banging, rattling, griding, and squeaking are never normal.
  • Odd smells. In addition to musty smells, the smell of burning or rotten eggs are never good.
  • High energy bills. Even if the A/C is cooling your home, high energy bills mean the unit isn’t functioning optimally.

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