Step-by-Step Guide to Preparing Your AC for Summer in Phoenix

Published 5:01 pm Monday, July 8, 2024

Preparing your AC for summer is crucial in Phoenix, where temperatures regularly soar above 100°F. Ensuring your air conditioner is in top condition can prevent breakdowns and keep your home comfortable during the hottest months. 

This comprehensive guide will walk you through the essential steps to prepare your AC for summer, ensuring efficient performance and longevity.

Safety Precautions

Phoenix, known for its extreme summer temperatures, necessitates several safety precautions to protect residents and visitors from heat-related hazards. 

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In 2023, Phoenix experienced record-breaking heat with 31 consecutive days exceeding 110°F and a total of 73 days over 100°F. 

This trend is projected to worsen, with estimates suggesting that by 2030, there could be up to 117 days annually over 100°F, and by 2060, almost half the year might see such temperatures. 

To combat these challenges, the Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS) has developed the Extreme Heat Preparedness Plan, which includes coordinated efforts across state and local agencies to mitigate heat-related illnesses and deaths. 

The plan emphasizes community education, the development of heat relief infrastructure, and improved data systems for resource management.

For motorists, the Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) provides critical advice during the summer months. 

As part of Heat Awareness Week, ADOT recommends drivers ensure their vehicles are prepared for the extreme heat. This includes checking the air conditioning system, battery, coolant levels, and tire pressure before setting out. 

Drivers are also advised to keep their gas tanks at least three-quarters full and carry an emergency kit with water, snacks, a fully charged phone, sunscreen, and a first aid kit. 

These precautions help prevent breakdowns and ensure safety in case of vehicular issues in the scorching heat.

Inspecting Your AC Unit

Inspecting your AC unit is essential in Phoenix due to the extreme heat that can put a significant strain on cooling systems. 

The process begins with a thorough inspection by a certified HVAC technician who checks the overall functionality of the system, measures airflow, and tests ductwork for leaks. 

This inspection helps identify potential issues early, ensuring that your system operates efficiently and reliably throughout the scorching summer months. 

The average cost of an HVAC inspection in Phoenix ranges from $250 to $400, although prices can vary based on the specific system and services required.

During an inspection, technicians will often perform a variety of tasks including cleaning the evaporator and condenser coils, checking refrigerant levels, and replacing or cleaning air filters. 

Regular maintenance such as this can significantly extend the lifespan of your AC unit, prevent unexpected breakdowns, and reduce energy costs. 

Given Phoenix’s intense summer heat, it’s recommended to have your AC inspected and maintained at least twice a year to ensure optimal performance and safety.

Cleaning the Indoor Unit

Cleaning the indoor unit of your air conditioner in Phoenix is crucial for maintaining its efficiency and longevity, especially given the city’s intense heat. 

The process starts with turning off the power to the unit to ensure safety. 

Remove the access panel to expose the evaporator coils, which are responsible for absorbing heat from the air inside your home. Use a vacuum cleaner or a soft brush to gently remove dust and debris from the coils. 

For tougher grime, a coil cleaner can be applied, allowing it to soak for 5-20 minutes before rinsing thoroughly with water to remove any residue.

In addition to the coils, it’s important to clean the condensate drain pan and pipe to prevent clogs that could cause water damage and reduce efficiency. 

Use a mixture of water and bleach to clear any blockages, ensuring proper drainage. Regular maintenance of the air filters is also essential; these should be cleaned or replaced every 1-3 months to ensure optimal airflow and air quality. 

This routine maintenance helps to avoid high energy bills and ensures that the AC unit functions effectively, providing relief from the intense Phoenix heat.

Cleaning the Outdoor Unit

Cleaning the outdoor unit of your air conditioner is essential for maintaining its efficiency, especially in the harsh climate of Phoenix. Begin by ensuring the power to the unit is turned off at the circuit breaker to prevent any electrical accidents. 

Clear away any debris such as leaves, grass, and dirt from around the unit, as this can obstruct airflow and reduce efficiency. Use a soft brush or vacuum cleaner with a brush attachment to clean around the fins and coils gently. 

For a thorough clean, use a garden hose with a nozzle attachment to spray water from the inside out, which helps to remove embedded dirt without damaging the fins.

In addition to regular debris removal, it is crucial to clean the condenser coils for optimal performance. 

Spray the coils with a foaming coil cleaner, allowing it to soak according to the product instructions, typically for 5-10 minutes, before rinsing thoroughly with water. Be careful to avoid spraying electrical components directly. 

Maintaining at least a two-foot clearance around the unit by trimming vegetation can also help ensure proper airflow. Regular inspections, ideally once a month during the summer, can help identify and address any issues promptly. 

For best results, combine DIY maintenance with professional inspections twice a year to ensure your system operates efficiently throughout the scorching Phoenix summer.


Maintaining the Condenser Fins

Maintaining the condenser fins of your air conditioner in Phoenix is crucial for ensuring efficient performance, particularly given the city’s extreme summer temperatures. These fins, located on the exterior of your AC unit, play a vital role in dissipating heat. 

Over time, they can accumulate dirt, and debris, and become bent, which impairs airflow and cooling efficiency. To clean the fins, start by turning off the power to the unit to prevent any electrical hazards. 

Use a soft-bristle brush or a vacuum cleaner with a brush attachment to gently remove dirt and debris. It’s essential to avoid using high-pressure water or aggressive cleaning methods, as the fins are delicate and can easily be damaged.

In addition to regular cleaning, straightening bent fins is also important for optimal airflow. A fin comb, which is specifically designed for this task, can be used to realign any fins that are bent. 

If you don’t have a fin comb, a dull dinner knife can serve as an alternative, but be sure to handle it carefully to avoid causing further damage. 

Regular maintenance, including trimming vegetation around the unit and ensuring at least two feet of clearance, can help prevent debris buildup and ensure efficient operation. 

For best results, schedule professional maintenance at least once or twice a year to thoroughly inspect and service your AC unit, ensuring it runs smoothly throughout the hot Phoenix summer.

Checking Refrigerant Levels

Checking and maintaining the refrigerant levels in your air conditioner is crucial, especially in Phoenix where summer temperatures can be extreme. 

Low refrigerant levels can lead to several issues such as reduced cooling efficiency, increased energy bills, and potential damage to the AC unit. 

Signs of low refrigerant include warm air blowing from vents, ice buildup on the evaporator coil or refrigerant lines, and hissing or bubbling noises, which indicate a refrigerant leak. It’s essential to check these levels regularly to ensure your system operates efficiently.

To check refrigerant levels, start by turning off the power to the AC unit. Locate the service valves and attach a manifold gauge set. 

Turn the unit back on and observe the pressure readings. For most systems, the pressure should be between 30-40 PSI, though this can vary based on the system type and outdoor temperature. 

Using a refrigerant slider, measure the temperature difference between the suction and discharge pipes to determine superheating and subcooling levels. If these readings are outside the optimal range (typically 10K for superheating and 5K for subcooling), your refrigerant levels are likely low, and you may need to add more refrigerant. 

If you’re unsure about performing these steps or the readings are significantly off, it’s best to contact a professional HVAC technician to handle the maintenance and ensure your system is functioning correctly.


Inspecting Ductwork

Inspecting ductwork in Phoenix is essential for maintaining an efficient and comfortable indoor environment. Given the extreme temperatures, well-maintained ductwork ensures that your HVAC system can effectively distribute conditioned air throughout your home. 

In a typical home, 20 to 30 percent of cooled air is lost due to duct leaks, cracks, or poorly sealed joints. This loss significantly impacts energy efficiency and increases utility bills. 

Regular inspection helps identify such issues early, allowing for timely repairs or sealing to prevent air leakage and maintain optimal performance.

The inspection process involves several steps. First, use basic tools like a flashlight, screwdriver, and a digital camera to check for visible damage, such as tears, holes, or disconnected joints. 

Feel around the duct connections for any air leaks; wetting your hand can increase sensitivity to escaping air. An incense stick or a thin piece of paper can also help detect leaks by showing where air is moving. 

For minor leaks, HVAC aluminum foil tape or mastic sealant can be used to patch the affected areas. However, if the ductwork is old, extensively damaged, or inaccessible, it’s best to contact a professional HVAC technician who can perform a thorough inspection and make necessary repairs. 

Regular professional inspections, ideally once a year, ensure that your duct system remains in good condition, providing efficient and effective air distribution throughout your home.

Adjusting Thermostat Settings

Adjusting your thermostat settings in Phoenix is crucial for balancing comfort and energy efficiency, especially given the extreme summer temperatures. 

According to the U.S. Department of Energy and local HVAC experts, setting your thermostat to 78°F during the summer when you are at home can optimize energy use while maintaining comfort. 

If you’re away from home, raising the thermostat by 7-10 degrees can significantly reduce your energy consumption, saving you up to 10% on cooling costs annually. 

Utilizing programmable or smart thermostats can automate these adjustments, ensuring your home is cool when needed without wasting energy.

In the winter, the recommended setting is around 68°F when you are at home and active. Lowering the temperature by 10-15 degrees while you sleep or are away can save about 5-15% on heating bills. 

Additionally, other measures such as using heavy curtains to insulate windows, reversing ceiling fan direction to push warm air down, and sealing drafts around windows and doors can further enhance your heating efficiency. 

Regular maintenance, including checking and replacing air filters, can also ensure your HVAC system runs efficiently throughout the year.

Additional Air Conditioner Tips for Summer

Phoenix summers are notoriously intense, and optimizing your air conditioner is essential to maintain a cool and comfortable home while managing energy costs effectively. 

One critical tip is to schedule regular maintenance and AC tune up for your HVAC system. 

Professional technicians can identify and address minor issues before they escalate into major problems, ensuring your system operates efficiently throughout the season. Regularly replacing air filters can reduce energy consumption by up to 15% and help maintain optimal airflow, preventing the system from overworking.

Additionally, keeping the area around your outdoor condenser unit clear of debris and vegetation is crucial. Obstructions can hinder airflow and reduce the unit’s efficiency, leading to higher energy bills and potential damage to the system. 

For those using portable or window air conditioners, ensure the exhaust hose is not fully extended, as this can decrease efficiency. 

Simple practices like closing blinds and curtains during the hottest parts of the day can also help keep your home cooler without over-relying on your air conditioner. 

Using ceiling fans to circulate air can enhance the cooling effect, allowing you to set your thermostat a few degrees higher without sacrificing comfort.


Phoenix offers a robust public transportation system managed by Valley Metro, which includes bus, light rail, and paratransit services. 

The Valley Metro Rail spans 28 miles, connecting key areas such as Downtown Phoenix, Tempe, and Mesa, and is a popular option for commuters and visitors alike. 

The extensive bus network covers the entire metropolitan area, providing reliable service with frequent stops. 

The city is also investing in infrastructure improvements, with projects like the expansion of Loop 101 and improvements along Interstate 10 to enhance connectivity and reduce traffic congestion.

For those planning to move to Phoenix, hiring a professional moving company is highly recommended. Moving companies not only transport your belongings efficiently but can also assist with the logistics of navigating the city. 

They offer valuable insights into the best routes and can help you settle in more comfortably. Additionally, these companies often provide services such as packing and unpacking, making the transition smoother and less stressful. 

By relying on professionals, you can focus on exploring your new city and adapting to your new surroundings without the hassle of handling everything on your own.


Preparing your AC for summer involves several critical steps, from cleaning and inspecting components to checking refrigerant levels and ductwork. 

By following this guide, you can ensure your air conditioner operates efficiently, keeping your home comfortable throughout the scorching Phoenix summer. Proactive maintenance not only enhances performance but also extends the life of your AC unit.