The summer should be relaxing and enjoyable, but a broken air conditioner can ruin it. Getting the most from your air conditioner takes more than just knowing how to turn it on. Here are some ways you can help it run better and keep your utility costs down.
A Little About Your System
Before looking at how you can improve your system’s performance, take a few minutes to learn how it works. This extra knowledge helps you understand why these tips work, and may help you implement them even more.
On the surface, your system works by circulating air and refrigerant. It must circulate air throughout your home, pull it into your HVAC system to condition it, and push it back out again.
The difference in temperature between the air and the evaporator coil determines the efficiency of your system, at least in part. If there is no difference, for some reason, the system will not cool your home.
However, keep in mind the higher the inside temperature, the longer your system will have to run to cool it. The following tips will either help with the circulation or help with the temperature regulation in your home or system.
Close Those Blinds
When the sun beats directly on your windows, it allows heat to transfer into your home. This extra heat increases how long your system must run to achieve your desired temperature.
Keep your blinds closed when the sun is beating directly on your windows. Once the sun has moved to a different part of the house, open the blinds to allow in the natural light.
Take A Break From Chores
So you don’t really have to take a break from all of your chores over the summer, just learn to time them. Showers, dishes, laundry, and cooking add a tremendous amount of heat and humidity to the air. Doing these chores at the hottest and most humid times of the day only exacerbates the strain on your system.
While you can certainly do some prep work for these at any point, wait to use the appliances for the cooler parts of the day. Time them in the early morning, or once the sun starts going down.
Open and Clear Your Vents
As your system runs, it creates high pressure at the output vents and low pressure at the return vents. This difference in pressure creates the air movement around your home, allowing the cool air to distribute.
Closed or blocked vents inhibit this air movement, causing inconsistent cooling throughout your home. Keep your vents open, and allow at least a 2-inch clearance above and around the vent.
Clean Around Your Condensing Unit
Just like your system must circulate air through your home and the indoor unit, so must the outside unit circulate air. The refrigerant absorbs heat from inside your home and then vents it outside. Your condensing unit must draw air in through the coils, and then vent it out the top of the unit.
The largest obstacle to proper airflow is debris around the unit condensing unit. Clear grass, weeds, brush, and branches from around your unit. The rule of thumb is to keep at least a 12-inch clearance around and above your condensing unit.
Make Use of Your Ventilation Fans
Your bathrooms and your kitchen have ventilation fans that you should use while using hot water. This helps vent out both the heat and humidity made by these activities before the air can circulate around your house.
Failing to run these fans while using hot water appliances has more impact than just making your system run longer. Rather, it also encourages the development of biological air contaminants. These decrease your air quality, causing airflow restrictions and increasing the strain on your HVAC system.
Give Your System a Break When You’re Not There
Most of us have a period of time during the workweek when no one is at home to enjoy the cooler air. This means you expend a lot of energy and reap none of the benefits. Use your program settings to increase the temperature by 7 or 8 degrees.
The Department of Energy suggests increasing the temperature for about 8 hours a day will decrease your annual energy consumption by about 10%. In addition to the energy savings, it also reduces the wear on your system during this time. This helps extend individual component life and your system’s service life.
Keep Your Air Filters Clean
Keeping your filters clean is one of the most important maintenance tasks you can perform for your system. These filters clog as your system runs, which eventually leads to airflow restrictions.
Plan to replace most 1-inch filters about every 90 days. However, poor air quality may mean you need to replace your filters more frequently. A larger filter may not need to be replaced as frequently, so check with your technician for their recommendation.
Keep Your Maintenance Current
Routine maintenance is critically important to keeping your system operating optimally. In fact, most manufacturers list professional maintenance as a term of their warranty.
Your technician will clean your coils and circulating fan, and tighten mounting bolts and screws. They’ll also test each component and your refrigerant level to ensure everything is within optimal parameters. This affords you an opportunity to fix anything suboptimal before causing greater problems.
Make Sure Your Thermostat Is Strategically Located
Where you locate your thermostat will affect how well it functions and controls your air conditioner. It will read artificially warm if placed in direct sunlight. Likewise, it will read too low while the system is running if located directly above an output vent.
Reduce the Load With Ceiling Fans
Ceiling fans do not cool your home at all. However, they do help improve circulation around your home. They also help the air feel cooler, simply by keeping air moving, usually by 1 or 2 degrees.
This means that you can get the same level of comfort without setting your temperature as low. Being able to get the same comfort with a higher set temperature reduces utility costs and wear on your system.
Shade Your Condensing Unit
Your system’s ability to transfer heat to the air outside depends on the difference between the air and the refrigerant. The hotter the air, the hotter the refrigerant must become to continue transferring heat. To make the refrigerant hotter, the refrigerant’s pressure must increase, adding additional strain to the compressor.
To help maintain higher efficiency, consider shading your condensing unit. This keeps the ambient air temperature lower, keeping the strain on the compressor lower. This helps reduce the wear on the compressor, extending its service life.
When your compressor does eventually wear out, you are looking at a substantial repair. You may look at replacing at least the condensing unit, if not the entire air conditioning system, in this event.
For more than 30 years, Gallagher's Plumbing, Heating and Air Conditioning has been a trusted name for air conditioning maintenance and repair around Sacramento. Call to schedule your AC maintenance with one of our expert technicians today.