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Proper maintenance can help keep your air conditioner running efficiently and prolong the life of the unit. | Photo courtesy of istockphoto.com/Spiderstock
Hot weather has arrived, and you've likely used your air conditioner at least a few times already (if not more). But have you spent the time to ensure that it's running as it should? And have you considered an overall cooling strategy that could help you run your air conditioner less, save money, and stay cool and comfortable? If you answered no to both of those questions, the tips below can help you get on track to a comfortable, efficient cooling season.
Maintain Your Air Conditioner
The tips below can help keep your air conditioner running efficiently and prolong the life of the unit.
- Replace filters every one to two months during the cooling season. You can lower energy use by 5%-15% by replacing a dirty, clogged filter with a clean one.
- Check the evaporator coil every year and clean it as needed.
- Clean the area around outdoor condenser coils by removing debris and trimming foliage so there are at least two feet around the condenser for airflow. Also be aware of debris build up from dryer vents, falling leaves, and trimming and mowing the lawn; clean away this debris as needed throughout the cooling season.
- Are the fins on your evaporator or condenser coils bent? If so, they may be blocking airflow. Look for a "fin comb" at an air conditioning wholesaler to get them bent back into shape.
- Pass a stiff wire through the unit's drain channels. When they are clogged, the unit can't reduce humidity and excess moisture could cause discoloration in the walls or carpet.
- If you live in an extremely humid climate and your air conditioner has difficulty achieving low humidity, consider adding a dehumidifying heat pipe as a retrofit to your system.
- For room or window air conditioners, inspect the seal between the air conditioner and the frame to ensure the frame makes contact with the unit's metal case. Damage to the seal can cause leaks and waste energy.
- Read more about air conditioner maintenance and common air conditioner problems. For more than basic maintenance, be sure to contact a certified professional.
Plan Your Home Cooling Strategy
Once you have your air conditioner in tip-top shape, work on your overall strategy for using it along with other methods for cooling your home, such as natural ventilation and ceiling fans. In addition, consider your cooking habits and appliance usage; these can add extra heat to your home. The following tips can be part of your strategy:
- Set your thermostat to at least 78°F when you're at home and need cooling. Use a programmable thermostat to increase the temperature when you're away and return it to a comfortable level before you're home.
- Use natural ventilation when possible. Open windows and turn off your cooling system if it's cool at night and in the mornings.
- Use energy-efficient window treatments and close them during the day to block sunlight and radiated heat from outdoors.
- Using ceiling fans when you're in the room. You can raise thermostat setting 4 degrees without affecting comfort. But remember to turn off fans when you leave the room—fans cool people, not rooms, by creating a wind chill effect.
- Find air leaks and seal them with caulk or weatherstripping to prevent warm air from leaking in.
- Limit the heat from your appliances. Cook outside on a grill, and try not to use the washer, dryer, and dishwasher during the heat of the day. Use a fan when showering and range hood when cooking to remove heat and humidity from the home.
- Move lamps, TVs, and other appliances away from your thermostat. The extra heat can cause the air conditioner to run longer.
- When landscaping, consider adding shade to block solar heat during the hot summer months.
Summer doesn't have to mean high cooling bills. Proper air conditioner maintenance coupled with an overall strategy for efficiently cooling your home can help you stay comfortable while saving money. For more tips, check out our infographic Energy Saver 101: Everything You Need to Know About Home Cooling, as well as our spring and summer energy-saving tips.