As the temperatures start to soar this summer, chances are you’ll be turning up the air conditioner for cooling relief. But if you want equally soothing relief on your cooling bills, now’s the time to make sure your AC is running efficiently. Plus, you’ll ensure your unit doesn’t break down during a heat wave. Try these tips today:
Call in the pros—a yearly tune-up helps ensure your HVAC unit is in tip-top shape, and a pro can diagnose and treat any problems that you might not be able to see before it’s too late. Be sure your service technician measures airflow, inspects the oil motors and belts, clears the drain, and checks refrigerant levels (low refrigerant levels means your unit has to work harder to operate). To make this a worthwhile investment, the key is to select a reliable technician. Check out Energy Star’s tips for hiring a heating and cooling contractor.
Give it a good cleaning to get rid of debris that can hinder air circulation. For example, trim back trees or shrubs at least two feet from the unit. Remove dirt and debris from the outside face using a vacuum with a soft brush attachment (be sure to shut off the unit’s electrical power first!). And if you’ve got gross gunk building up on the inside, remove the top part of the unit (the part with the fan attached), and spray from the inside out with a garden hose and steady water pressure. Reader’s Digest offers specific details, pictures, and diagrams on how you can give your unit a thorough, safe cleaning. Or read up on how to clean a window air conditioner.
Change the air filter every month (though during low-use months you can get away with changing it every three months as long as it’s not dirty). Dirty filters waste energy by making your AC work harder to keep you cool, while clean filters prevent dust buildup.
Inspect and seal ducts to prevent unnecessary air leaks. While you’re at it, check all hose connections for leaks. Approximately 20 percent of the air that passes through your duct system is lost because of leaks, holes, and poor duct connections. Learn more here.
Check indoors, because just as plants and other outdoor debris can hinder your unit’s efficiency, so can unsuspecting items inside. Vacuum registers and air vents regularly, keep furniture and drapes away from registers, close doors and windows when the air conditioning is on, and make sure the vent from your clothes dryer doesn’t blow on the outside AC unit.
Invest in an Energy Star-certified air conditioner if you’re in the market for a new one. Energy Star units are approximately 20 percent more efficient than conventional models and, just like any other Energy Star appliance, a certified air conditioner will save you money over the course of its lifetime. For maximum efficiency, install your unit on a side of your house that’s shaded. Learn more at the Energy Star website.
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