Is Your AC System Ready for the Heat of Summer?
With the beginning of summer heat upon us, it is the time to think about the things you can do around the house to help keep your air conditioning system at its peak. When you make your home and your AC unit work together, you can save more money on your utility bill and make you AC system last longer. If you’re trying to avoid replacing your unit, you can help keep it going for years by avoiding unnecessary use and making sure it’s not going to be overloaded. You can also enjoy a much more comfortable home no matter what the thermometer reads outside.
Check out these ways to ensure that your HVAC will be ready to take on the summer.
The most important thing to check when it comes to your AC unit is your air filter. Depending on your system, you may have the filters at the return (where the air goes back to the inside unit) or at the inside unit itself. With a return filter, it’s essential to replace your disposable air filter at least once a month. Filters that are built into to the inside unit (furnace or air handler) are usually called media filters and need to be thoroughly cleaned roughly once every six months in order to keep things working properly. You may need to clean or replace your filters more frequently if you have pets in your home or if you are a smoker. Once you’ve got a fresh or newly cleaned air filter, your HVAC won’t have any dust or dirt blocking or restricting the air from circulating freely throughout your home.
It is also important to note that if you have a media filter, make sure that you do not have additional return filters – that will restrict air flow too much and require the system to use more electricity and wear out sooner.
You need to go outside and examine your HVAC unit. You want to make sure the area is clear and free from debris. A good idea is to have an open space of around two feet surrounding your HVAC to avoid debris getting inside of the machine in the first place and turn off your AC system when the lawn is being cut to avoid grass clippings getting into the small crevices that make up the outside coil. If there are any plants, branches, or other items that are blocking the area or touching your air conditioner, you need to clear it away. Make sure you do not grow any shrubbery too close to the unit.
This also means you must make sure all leaves are removed completely away from the unit. You can spray your hose (never a pressure washer) through the grids to help remove the grass, bugs, pet hair, pollen, and dirt that collects on the coils making them less efficient. This is something that takes year-long commitment. Never open your AC unit because they run on 240 volts which is plenty enough electricity to kill. Material that has been collecting in the unit all year long may be stuck between the fine blades of the coil, making it difficult to thoroughly and completely clean.
Regular cleaning by a professional AC technician will assure your coils will be able to dissipate the heat that the AC system delivered from the inside of your house.
One of the best things you can do to help with your energy bill is to install a programmable thermostat. With new technologies, it is now possible to customize your air conditioning schedule whether you are home or not.
Depending on the weather and your personal schedule, you can make adjustments to the temperature you keep on the inside of your house. If you know you’re not going to be home, you can schedule your unit to let the indoor temperature rise a little. Not only does this help you save money, but running a climate controlled schedule can help prevent your air conditioner from working too hard during the hottest months.
Positioning several different kinds of fans throughout your home can make a huge difference in the comfort and feel of the air inside. Different options include: ceiling fans, tabletop fans, and floor fans. While they do not make the air any cooler, they will make you more comfortable when you are in the room and that means you may be able to keep your temperature a degree or two higher which saves a lot of electricity.
However, realize that fans provide comfort only when you are in the room. They should not be left on if the room is vacant for an extended time and certainly should not be left on when you are gone for the day. There is a tradeoff with fans because they circulate air across the windows and outside walls, which can actually bring in more outside heat. Add to that, the small amount of heat created and the electricity used by the motor, and they actually cost you energy dollars to use. So, the rule of thumb is: they are worth it when you are there, but waste money when you are not.
If you have a lot of windows throughout your home, you may have noticed that the indoor temperature can rise significantly when the sun penetrates through the glass. Your air conditioner then has to combat the quick heat up in the afternoon.
One way to battle this issue is to invest in window treatments, such as blinds or drapes. Window treatments over larger, sun-exposed windows can help keep the buildup of heat near the windows rather than in the living parts of the room. Also, tinting windows can repel a significant amount of the sun’s heat from entering your home – how efficient!
Your HVAC unit can only work at its best if there are no obstructions to the flow of air inside of the walls of your home. Beyond having a professional go through the entire duct system, there is one easy way to check to make sure there are no visible blockages or leaks.
Just walk through your home and examine each vent (you might need a flashlight for this). Make sure the vents in the rooms you want to use your air conditioning are open. This can help your AC get an even amount of coverage throughout the square footage of your property. If you find dust or mold on your vents or you still have hot or cold areas of your house, you will need to hire a professional to find the deeper issues causing the problems.
Ovens and stoves generate heat. Of course, they do – that’s their job. Unfortunately, they work against our beloved AC systems that are trying to keep the indoor air comfortable. If you’re cooking a large dinner, instead of heating up your kitchen and surrounding rooms with your oven and stove, consider using your outdoor grill. Cooking in the kitchen will add extra warmth and humidity to your home and can push older air conditioning units beyond their capabilities.
Gas and electric dryers heat your home in three different ways. First it pulls the cool air from your home that your AC system created and pushes it right outside. Second, the air that is pushed outside is replaced with hot and humid outside air. Third, the dryer itself creates heat that dissipates inside your home. So, instead of just throwing your laundry into the dryer on the longest time setting, use the dry sensor that many of the new models have, or check frequently to see if the clothes are dry before it is set to stop. If you are feeling more industrious, try hanging your clothes to dry outdoors. Let the sun help you rather than hinder you, and your clothes can have that fresh smell of sunshine. These practices not only promote the health of your AC system, but you can also save significantly on your electric bill.
If you’ve tried all of these tips and your AC unit is still not sufficiently cooling your home, it may be time to invest in an upgraded system. An older unit may actually be costing you more money each year due to the degrading efficiencies that older units inevitably obtain. Newer models of air conditioners are being made even more energy efficient and sometimes offer more ways to help lower energy bills.
Choosing a new HVAC system is something that you can do with the help of a reputable professional. As always, make sure you are buying from a company that is licensed and insured so you can avoid long-term issues.
When summer arrives this year, you want to be prepared to enjoy the warmer temperatures and longer days. By taking the time to do your own checkup and add simple home enhancements to help your air conditioner, you can keep your AC unit running more efficiently. These easy tips can keep the cool air flowing and your family feeling comfortable, no matter how high the temperature rises outside in the hot summer days. These tips can also help you save money on your electricity and extend the life of your AC unit – wouldn’t that be nice?