Maximize Your MRCOOL Air Conditioner
You’re at home. It’s summer. The air conditioner is running. But, somehow, you’re still sweating. Do you try to turn the thermostat down a couple degrees? Should you take to wearing your underwear around the house like your dad did? Or are you going to have to bite the bullet and buy a new unit?
Don’t get too hasty! There are some simple things you can do to help your air conditioner work as effectively and efficiently as it can. You can keep the thermostat where it is, avoid having to spend big on a new unit, and, most importantly, keep your pants.
So, here are the top things you can do to keep your air conditioner working at maximum this summer:
Schedule a Service Check
One of the most useful things you can do to get the most out of your air conditioner is to show it some love with an annual service check. Have a qualified HVAC service technician give your system, for lack of a better word, a physical. That means any worn parts get replaced, the coils get their spring cleaning, and you get a clean bill of health for your air conditioner before summer heat hits.
A simple service check once a year is a cost-effective way to keep your unit operating efficiently, saving you money, and avoid mechanical failure, another money saver. The typical service plan is not that expensive, and it is definitely cheaper than replacing an air conditioner that could have gone years longer with some simple maintenance.
Plus, your warranty likely requires you to have the air conditioner serviced annually as a precondition for warranty claims.
Clean the Outside Condenser
Whether you rely on a package unit or a split system, every air conditioner must have an outside condenser. This condenser is like any other sophisticated appliance in that it doesn’t run very well if it is clogged with dirt and debris. Make sure you clean it on a regular schedule.
So, how do you do that?
First, switch off the power to the unit before you attempt to do any maintenance on your air conditioner. Every condenser in the United States is supposed to be installed with a disconnect box nearby. This is a square metal box with a switch inside it. Hit that switch to kill the electrical power to the condenser.
Next, check that your condenser is free of any obvious obstructions. Is there trash, leaves, or other debris clogging up the fins? Sweep them away. Are grass and weeds growing up around the condenser like crazy? Mow them down. And make sure the mower exhaust is facing AWAY from the condenser whenever you mow around it. Blasting a rock into the fins isn’t going to help.
Once you have the big stuff out of the way you can get a bit more sophisticated. Get a powerful vacuum cleaner like a Shop-Vac. Suck out any dust and dirt and junk that’s left stuck between the fins. Be careful not to mash the vacuum hose against the fins. They’re more delicate than you might think.
After you’re done with the vacuum, go get the garden hose. Turn the setting on the sprayer as low as it will go. You want a nice, gentle water jet. Wash out all the fins and every nook and cranny.
When you are satisfied you’ve got all the debris out, check the cooling fins to see if they are all straight. Bent fins decrease efficiency. If you see any bent fins, grab a butter knife from the cutlery drawer. Use gentle pressure to realign the fins as close as you can. Never insert the butter knife more than a half-inch at most.
Change Your Filter
A clogged filter inside your air conditioner is going to hamper efficiency and worsen comfort. Debris trapped in the filter will build up and slow down air flow. This, as you might expect, is bad. Slow down air flow enough and your air conditioner will completely break down.
You don’t want that to happen in July. Fortunately, making sure your filter is clean and effective is very easy to do.
The first thing you need to know is whether you have a replaceable filter or a washable filter. A washable filter comes out, gets cleaned, and goes back in. A replaceable filter comes out and goes in the trash. Central heating and air units usually have replaceable filters. Ductless units usually have washable filters.
Keep Vents Clear
As you hopefully already know, proper air flow is an important part of making sure you get maximum air comfort from your air conditioner. Any air flow restriction will decrease your comfort and can negatively impact operating life.
Check your vents and your duct work at least once or twice a year. When you find major obstructions, remove them. Clean your vents with a vacuum cleaner much more regularly. Not only are you improving your comfort, but you’re also keeping dust from being pulled into your air conditioner filter and clogging it up.
Cover Unused Windows
The sun makes things hot. Do you have uncovered windows in rooms you don’t use? Those windows are letting a lot of unneeded heat into your home. Get some blinds or some curtains and cover those windows. The less heat you have in your house to begin with, the less work your air conditioner has to do.
Also, before you leave home to go to work or school or whatever, pull the curtains on windows in rooms you do use. You can always open them when you get back, and there is no use letting in heat when you aren’t looking out the window anyway.
Install Ceiling Fans
Go get some ceiling fans. These are a great way to make your house feel cooler and more comfortable. A good ceiling fan will circulate conditioned air, and they’re very cheap to run. A typical ceiling fan costs virtually nothing to run, but it can let your tick the thermostat up a degree or two. You’ll stay comfortable and save money.
Correctly Place Your Thermostat
A thermostat should never be placed near a door, window, or in direct sunlight. After all, it sets the standard for your entire home. Expose it in a location that gets more hot or cold air than the rest of your home, and your interior will never feel right. So, if your thermostat is in one of those bad places, then move it. An interior hallway is ideal.
Keep Windows and Doors Closed
You weren’t born in a barn (probably). So, keep your doors and windows closed! It sounds obvious, but we know that there are definitely folks out there who need to hear it. Your air conditioner is going to work much better in a sealed environment than not. Do you really want to open a window? Then go turn off the air conditioner first.
Invest in a Smart Thermostat
We know that thermostat placement is important, but so is intelligence. A smart thermostat is an invaluable tool when it comes to maximizing your air conditioner investment. Set your typical schedule, and let the thermostat do the rest. It will cycle temperature up and down as needed so you aren’t wasting energy maximally cooling an empty house.
How much could you save with a smart thermostat? Studies have shown that a smart thermostat could save you as much as 23% on your energy bills annually. For most people, that turns out to be quite a lot of money year over year.
Keep the Temperature at 78 Degrees
According to science people, 78 degrees is the optimum temperature for performance and comfort in a typical home. Set it at 78, get used to that temperature, and you can save a lot. Every degree below 78 will increase your cost by approximately 8%. Drop it down to a crisp 68 degrees and your bill just went up 80%.
Keep the Air Conditioner On
Some people think that turning off the air conditioner when they go to work will save them money. This is not true.
All you’re doing is making sure that when you get home from wherever you went that your home is hot, humid, and miserable. Obviously, you’re going to turn on the air conditioner, but now it has to work extra hard to get back to where you want it to be. And, guess what, all that extra work is burning extra energy.
The optimum scenario is to use a smart thermostat to raise the temperature a few degrees when the house is unoccupied. However, turning the unit off and allowing the temperature to skyrocket doesn’t save money. It makes things much worse.
And that’s without getting into all the damage that high humidity can do to the interior of a home. Mold and mildew are bad, folks.
Your home air conditioner isn’t an appliance that you should ignore. It requires regular maintenance, cleaning, and care. Most people are used to doing that, which is why so many people see their utility bill climb and their air conditioner break down.
But now you know differently. You can keep your air conditioner working effectively for years to come. Your family (and wallet) will thank you.