During a scorching Southern California summer, when the temperature skyrockets, many of us try to find different ways to stay cool effectively and affordably. If your AC system is under-performing, there is a good chance that your equipment’s performance may simply be affected by everyday household habits. Finding out what you are doing wrong and correcting it could go a long way in terms of improving your indoor comfort.
An air conditioner’s fans, filters, and coils need regular maintenance to make the unit perform at its best level of efficiency. If you neglect necessary maintenance, you will experience a steady decline in the AC’s performance and steady increase in energy use that directly contributes to increased utility bills. Ideally, you should take advantage of the off-season to perform necessary maintenance works to enhance the efficiency of your air conditioner.
Here is a list of some of the most common mistakes people make daily. Do not overlook the importance of these issues when it comes to your AC’s functionality.
1. Open Windows and Doors
One of the most common sources of AC performance issues is an open window in the household. While you may cherish the fresh outdoor air circulating throughout your home, this can lead to a significant loss in unit efficiency. However, opening the windows lets the cooled and dehumidified air leak out of your house. This puts more pressure on your air conditioner. It will have to cycle longer and more frequently to make up for the warm air intrusion through any open windows or doors. If you need to air out a room or leave an exterior door open for a long time, turn off your air conditioning system until you can close them.
2. Leaving Blinds and Curtains Open
Natural light can help reduce your lighting costs, but when no one is in a room, it’s best to keep the curtains closed during the day. It is especially true for houses with windows facing east and west.
A window letting the hot sunlight passing through doesn’t just heat up the thermostat but also heats up the home. If the sun continually shines into the windows, it can easily add up to the cooling costs. Direct sunlight can raise the room temperature by 10 to 20 degrees. Simply put, the less heat gets into the home, the less you need to pay to bring the room temperature back to a comfortable level. Close the window blinds during the hottest part of the day and you’ll be able to keep out the heat. To maximize cooling, open the drapes, blinds or curtains in the evening to allow heat to escape through the windows.
3. Using Heat-Generating Appliances
When in use, your oven and clothes dryer heat up the room they are in. This is counterproductive when you are operating your air conditioner to cool your home. When possible, avoid using heat-generating appliances including dishwashers, clothes dryers, ovens, cooktops, or toasters during the daytime. You can run your dishwasher overnight. For clothes drying, use the dryer early in the day, before sunrise if possible. Instead of using the oven to cook, grill outdoors. Using a slow cooker is another option. If you like to bake, do this early in the day to take advantage of lower electricity rates during off-peak hours.
4. Forgetting to Use Exhaust Fans
Use an exhaust fan when cooking to help expel hot air from the house. If you don’t have an exhaust fan, cool the room by using a floor fan in the kitchen while cooking. Fans not only cool the air, but they also help move hot air out of the kitchen.
When you boil water, sauté, or fry food on the cooktop, this heat and humidity increase your home’s temperature. This is also true if you forget to turn on the bathroom fan when showering. The steam from your shower will not have anywhere to go, so it will spread throughout your home. The thermostat will trigger your AC to cycle more frequently while you cook or shower.
5. Failing to Clean Air Ducts and Registers
Over time, dust and debris build up in your home’s air ducts. As the buildup gets thicker, less of the cooled air will be able to push through the ducts and enter your living spaces. If the cooled air can’t get into your living areas, the thermostat will keep triggering the air conditioner to cycle. This adds stress to the cooling system and increases your utility bills. Ideally, you should inspect the air filters monthly and get them replaced every three months. Apart from this, if you’ve central air conditioning, you need to check the vents as well. Forgetting to clean the air vent covers or registers also decreases your AC efficiency. Once each month, remove the vent covers. Clean them with a soapy, soft cloth. Wipe them dry with a microfiber or cotton cloth before replacing them.
6. Skipping AC Maintenance
An improperly maintained AC unit uses anything between 10 and 30 percent more energy and ends up having a shorter lifespan. For instance, central AC compressors usually last for approximately 10 to 12 years. It is also a good idea to schedule professional duct cleaning every one to three years. If your household includes furry pets or anyone with allergies or breathing disorders, yearly duct cleaning is a good idea.
Your contractor should perform the following:
- Replace dirty, clogged filters.
- Look whether the condenser or evaporator are bent. If yes, s/he should get them bent back.
- Check the evaporator coil and clean it, if required.
- If you live in an extremely humid climate, the contractor may consider adding a dehumidifying heat pipe to the system.
Professional servicing and cleaning of your air conditioning unit may cost you a couple hundred bucks but the payback is completely worth it. Though it depends on the age of your unit and the amount of dirt on it, having a professional do a complete checkup can pay you back in less than a year in terms of lowered utility bills while extending the longevity of the unit.
7. Blocked Air Vents
Another way to make sure that your unit is able to operate accordingly is to ensure that its ducts are not obstructed. This is because blocked ducts can lead to a myriad of problems once debris and other particles accumulate. You are likely to notice a strange smell emanating from your AC. This could mean that your unit is spreading pollutants throughout the home. You may also find out that your energy bill has suddenly risen. The reduced energy efficiency stems from a blocked unit that is forced to work harder. This will lead to differing temperatures in various rooms in the household.
8. Improperly Located AC Equipment
The place where your AC equipment is located makes a big difference in its efficiency. If you install your thermostat in an area that is close to heat-generating appliances, it will cause your air conditioner to cycle more frequently. This will unnecessarily increase your utility bills. Avoid placing your thermostat near a refrigerator, oven, microwave, computer, lamp, or dishwasher. Small appliances, including toasters, coffeemakers, and toaster ovens also generate heat.
Thermostats should not be placed on a wall that gets direct sunlight. An optimal location for a thermostat is on an interior hallway wall. If the sun or a nearby lamp blasts your thermostat for big chunks of the day, that could throw off its readings and cause it to crank your AC even though your place is pleasantly cool. Especially if you are away during the day, you may not realize your system is working overtime due to a misplaced thermostat.
The location of your air conditioner’s outdoor unit also matters. If the unit gets direct sunlight, it won’t do as good of a job releasing heat from your home. The ideal location for a central air conditioning unit is on the north side of a house. While this may not always be practical, there are other ways to achieve this.
Landscaping does more than make your yard look nice. By planting shrubs or trees around your air conditioning unit, you can help it cool your home more efficiently. The shade from landscaping also helps keep the sun’s rays away from your home.
The scorching days of Southern California summer is now in full force! It is important to take a few steps to keep your air conditioning unit working efficiently.
If your system needs repair or inspection before winter, call us on 951-926-1002. You can also visit our Contact page and complete the contact form.