Summer is just around the corner, and while we always welcome warmer temperatures at first, those long dog days can quickly become uncomfortably hot.

If you’re fortunate enough to live in one of the two-thirds of all American homes with air conditioning, then you’re in luck. During summer months, no matter where you live in the country, a properly installed and well-maintained air conditioning unit can drastically improve the air quality of a hot afternoon.

Like any HVAC system, however, cooling units require maintenance in order to perform their best and avoid the need for repairs. In order to make sure your AC serves you all season long, perform some routine check-ups now to avoid undue problems later.

EnergyStar recommends twice-yearly professional check-ups: one at the beginning of summer for air conditioning maintenance, and one before you have to kick on the heat for the fall or winter. But with a little know-how, you can test, maintain, and even repair your home air conditioner unit without calling in the professionals in some cases.

Here are the basics if you’re up for it:

  1. Check and Change the Filters.
    Knowing when and how often to change a filter is the most essential part of air conditioning maintenance. A clogged filter can cause serious strain to the rest of the unit’s ability to function. Depending on what type and how much you use, it’s recommended to change out filters every one to three months.
  2. Check and Clean the Coils.
    Spray your evaporator coils with a commercial solution for air conditioners to minimize dirt and debris at least once a year. Build-up can cause systems to overheat.
  3. Check and Straighten the Fins.
    Maximize your unit’s air flow efficiency by making sure that outer fins are all properly aligned with one another. Some HVAC services sell small “fin combs” that will help you get everything back into place and prevent the obstruction of air flow.

Essentially, that’s it. Just three easy steps to summer air conditioning maintenance! While the details will depend on your make and model, always be sure to follow any instructions available from the manufacturer. When in doubt, you should always call a professional.