Neglecting AC maintenance is not a healthy option

(Consumer Reports) - Air conditioners are a godsend during those hot and humid days of summer. But could the same appliance that cools you down also make you sick? Consumer Reports reveals that from dust to mold, ACs can spread a lot more than just cool air.

Consumer Reports says make sure you keep your air conditioning units in good order. (Inga Munsinger Cotton/CC By 2.0/MGN)

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, it 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," Paul Hope, Consumer Reports home editor, said.

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 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," Hope explained.

CR recommends this SPT for larger rooms. It costs about $340. And for mid-sized rooms consider this 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 ACs. 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," Hope said.

If you have a central AC unit, Consumer Reports has some simple DIY tips to keep your unit running cool and clean all summer long.