If you don't have central air conditioning, then you know the drill: haul your heavy, awkward window air conditioner out of storage for the summer season.
But beyond being bulky and inconvenient to move around, that window unit could be harboring mold and other irritants.
"Without proper care and maintenance, mold can actually grow on the inside which has the potential to lead to health problems like wheezing, congestion and throat irritation," said Consumer Reports Home Editor Paul Hope.
Examine your air conditioner and be on the lookout for clusters of tiny black spots along the air duct.
"Cleaning the louvers is a good first step," said Hope. "But if you see mold on them, there's a good chance that there's more hiding inside the air conditioner. If that's the case, you really want to consider buying a new one."
Consumer Reports recommends the SPT unit for larger rooms. It costs about $340. And for mid-sized rooms, consider the recommended Kenmore for $270.
Next, install your AC properly! Make sure your window air conditioner is slightly tilted to the outside.
That way, any condensation or rain water won't end up on the inside, which could also cause a mold problem.
Install the air conditioner's side panels snugly against the side of the window frame, and use the weather stripping foam that comes with most air conditioners so that outside air can't creep in.
This will save energy and keep pollen and other allergens, outside.
Consumer Reports says it's also a good idea to clean the filter on your AC at the start of the season and then once a month after that.
"It will help the machine run efficiently and keep the air it circulates clean," said Hope.