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Air Conditioning Tips and FAQ

The following air conditioning tips can help keep your system working in peak condition and to keep your energy costs as low as possible during the summer.

Set your thermostat between 78 – 82°F

It has been shown that for every 2°F below this range, your electrical costs increase by about 15%. It will also probably cost you in repairs as well, because a system that is used more heavily will break down sooner.

Use the advantage of cooler nighttime temperatures

In the days before air conditioning, most homeowners knew that if they opened up the house and let in as much of the cool evening air as possible, it would make the next day more tolerable. The goal was to cool the home off, then close it back up before daytime temperatures started to rise.

You can use a similar strategy with your air conditioner. When you know the next day is predicted to be very hot, get a jump on the day by cooling your home during the night. The following day, the air conditioner won’t have to work as hard trying to keep the temperature down.

Make sure your ducts aren’t leaking air

Ventilation modifications can save you anywhere from 17 to 35% on your electrical bill when ducts are sealed up. If your home is already well insulated and sealed, you will experience less energy savings than someone whose home is poorly insulated and poorly sealed, but you will still experience energy savings of between 5 to 10%.

There are common areas where ducts tend to leak especially in mobile homes. Sleeve connections, end caps and floor registers are all common spots where joints may allow air to escape.

If your summer energy bills seem to be excessively high, it can be well worth hiring a contractor to perform a duct pressure test. This will identify whether you have leaks in your air–conditioning supply ducts. Once these have been identified, the tech can provide you with a quote for how much it will cost to bring your home’s duct system into energy–efficient status.

Check your attic insulation

During the summer, more heat is absorbed through the roof than from any other exterior surface, including windows. Make sure your attic is both properly vented and insulated. Insulation can keep the heat from the sun out and keep the cool air where it belongs. The vents give the attic hot air a place to escape.

Check your condenser coils

Dirty air conditioner condenser coils run your energy costs up and shorten the life of your air conditioner. Make sure that both the indoor and outdoor coils are kept free of dirt and debris. The free flow of air through the system is vital.

Use a vacuum cleaner to remove dust indoors. You may use a water hose, but make sure it puts no pressure on the exterior coils. Avoid any chemicals, as they can cause corrosion if you use the wrong kind. If you see any bent fins, use a fin tool to straighten them.

If you discover that your coils are extremely dirty, we recommend that you hire a professional. Careless work can cause very expensive damage. A licensed and bonded contractor will make sure your air conditioner is ready to perform all season long.

Air Conditioning FAQ

How do I know what size of air conditioner I need?

HVAC contractors use Air–Conditioning and Refrigeration Institute (ARI) Manual J to calculate the correct size of air conditioner for your home. This manual may be purchased and you can do the calculations manually by following the instructions, or they can be calculated by software that uses the formulas from Manual J.

For the best results, you need to take complete measurements of your home. (A blueprint is enough for new construction.) This includes both width and length of each room, as well as height. You need to know the cubic volume of your home, because this is the amount of space that must be cooled.

Why has my air conditioner stopped cooling?

The first thing you should check is to see if the air conditioning unit is dirty. It is very important to keep the outside coils clean so the heat pressure doesn’t rise too high. This could cause the pipes holding the coolant to burst, compressor failure or electrical overload. Fortunately, just cleaning the coils is often enough. You’ll need to be extra vigilant when contaminants like cottonwood are floating through the air. They can clog up an air conditioner’s air intake very quickly.

The inside coils are also very important. When they become dirty, they tend to ice over. This stops air from flowing through the coils, reducing and eventually stopping cooling entirely. The best way to prevent problems with the inside coils is to change the air filters regularly, though eventually it will be necessary to vacuum the coils out. Don’t use a high pressure blower as this can flatten the coil fins or break them off.

If addressing these issues doesn’t resolve the problem, it’s time to call a professional.

Is there anything I can do to reduce the risk of my air conditioner breaking down?

Preventive maintenance is one of the smartest things you can do. It’s recommended that you keep both the outside coils and inside coils of your air conditioning system clean at all times.

It’s also recommended that you install your air conditioner in a shaded area. If it’s too late for that, you should try to shade the unit in some way that won’t restrict the airflow it. Direct sun on an air conditioner’s outside condenser coil can cause it to overheat and create too much pressure. If this happens, the unit will shut off.

Another trick that can be used on extremely hot days is to place a mister over the back coil on the outside of the air conditioner. If your air conditioner has already cut out, let it rest for 20 minutes, then spray the coil with water before attempting to turn the air conditioner back on.

Who invented air conditioning?

Willis Carrier, a graduate of Cornell University’s Masters of Engineering program, built the first air conditioning unit for a Brooklyn printing plant. The resulting even air temperature made it possible to print in four colors without misalignment of the inks. It wasn’t until 1924 that Carrier’s idea caught on for making movie theaters and department stores more comfortable in the summer months.

Is salt air harmful to air conditioners?

Yes, it shortens the life of the air conditioning system components. Applying a lubricant on a weekly basis during the summer months and covering it when it isn’t in use is recommended.

Should I be worried about the amount of noise my air conditioner makes when it starts up?

Most air conditioners are noisier when the air conditioning condenser unit first starts. This is because the compressor needs to build up pressure to operate. If the noise lasts more than 10 seconds, call a technician. HVAC techs will check for low refrigerant levels, compressor oil levels and other issues that might be occurring.

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