The summer heat has arrived and your air conditioner is likely in full throttle. If you can’t live without air conditioning, don’t worry – there are ways to minimize environmental impact and optimize power efficiency. Here, we’ll discuss 4 key ways you can get the most out of your air conditioning system.
- Keep your air conditioner clean.
Keeping your air conditioner clean helps you dodge expensive repairs and increases the efficiency and reliability of your unit. Make sure to clean the outside unit as well as the unit inside. The outdoor unit is called the condenser and contains a compressor, cooling fins and tubes, and a fan. Outdoor condenser coils can become very dirty if the surrounding environment is dusty or if there is foliage nearby. Cleaning the area around the coil, removing any debris, and trimming foliage back allow for adequate airflow around the condenser. Regularly replacing your furnace filter is crucial. Clogged, dirty filters block normal airflow and reduce a system's efficiency significantly. With normal airflow obstructed, air that bypasses the filter may carry dirt directly into the evaporator coil and impair the coil's heat-absorbing capacity. Replacing a dirty, clogged filter with a clean one can lower your AC's energy consumption by 5% to 15%. The evaporator (the indoor unit) contains a blower, filter, and a condensation drain tube. A clean filter prevents the evaporator coil from soiling quickly. Dirt reduces airflow and insulates the coil, reducing its ability to absorb heat. To avoid this problem, check your evaporator coil every year and clean it as necessary.
- Check refrigerant levels.
It’s important that you check your AC system for proper refrigerant (Freon) levels. Low refrigerant levels may indicate a leak, which is both an environmental and operational hazard. Compressor failure and many other system problems result from low or no Freon. Refrigerant leaks are a problem because:
- Low refrigerant levels reduce efficiency of the air conditioner.
- They can freeze the evaporator coil, causing it to ice up.
- Freon (R-22) is an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) controlled substance, deemed hazardous if released into the environment.
- The heart of the unit is the compressor, which is cooled by refrigerant. Over time, low refrigerant levels can cause overheating and premature failure of the compressor, often requiring complete replacement of the compressor or the entire condensing unit – a very expensive proposition.
- Upgrade to a higher SEER rating.
It’s helpful to have an AC with a high seasonal energy efficiency ratio (SEER). This is the HVAC industry’s metric for expressing an air conditioner’s energy efficiency. SEER denotes the ratio between the amount of BTUs of heat extracted from your home versus the amount of electrical energy consumed by the AC system. Presently, the federally mandated minimum SEER rating is 13. The higher the SEER number, the better. High-efficiency units today offer SEER ratings over 20. So, if your AC has a SEER rating under 13, you may want to consider an upgrade in order to get the most out of your unit.
- Adjust your thermostat settings.
You should adjust your thermostat settings according to your habits and preferences in order to achieve temperature settings that will provide optimal personal comfort and cost efficiency. During the warm weather, it is recommended that you set your home's cooling system to 78 degrees Fahrenheit when you are home. If you will be out for four or more hours, consider changing the setting so the cooling system only comes on if the temperature tops 88 degrees Fahrenheit. It is estimated that, for every degree higher you set your thermostat over 78 degrees Fahrenheit, you could save approximately six to eight percent off your home energy bill, per degree. And, using a programmable or smart thermostat can save you all the manual work.
These 4 important tips will help you remain comfortable while increasing energy efficiency. Avoid unnecessary costs and increase your unit’s reliability – because it can be stifling out there.
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