Many Southern California homeowners depend on their air conditioners during summer for sure but also during spring and fall for the most part. But sometimes we rely on them a bit too much. Air conditioners are intended to run until the thermostat setting is met and rest until the home’s temperature needs to be adjusted again. It is important to ensure that our AC units are functioning efficiently to avoid overworking them and potentially causing breakdowns.
Well-cared for systems run more efficiently, use less energy and save you money. They also have longer lifespans, which means you do not have to buy a new system as soon, which will cost you thousands of dollars.
Keep your unit in good condition through routine maintenance. You can also be on the look-out for an overworked unit by watching for the below tell-tale signs.
Understanding AC Malfunctions And Obstructions
Air conditioners can experience malfunctions and obstructions that put undue strain on their systems, reducing efficiency and leading to potential breakdowns. Malfunctions range from faulty wiring and sensor issues to refrigerant leaks or compressor problems. Obstructions include dirty air filters, blocked vents, or debris around the outdoor unit. These issues force the AC unit to work harder, consume more energy, and decrease lifespan.
Here are three key factors to consider:
- Clogged Air Filters
When air filters are not consistently changed, they get clogged by the buildup of particles and contaminants that stick to the filter. While the filter is designed to accommodate these minuscule items, the buildup creates an almost impenetrable barrier so that the air cannot completely flow through, which can ultimately cause multiple problems for the entire HVAC system.
- Refrigerant Leaks
Refrigerant is what makes cooling your home possible. Loss of refrigerant, also known as coolant or Freon, is not a normal part of an AC system’s operation and indicates a refrigerant leak. A properly running AC system circulates and maintains the same amount of refrigerant, it does not lose refrigerant over time.
- Dirty Condenser Coils
Condenser coils are one of the main components of your HVAC system that make sure your unit is reliable, effective, cost-efficient and operational for the long-term. It is located in your condensing unit outside of your home. The system itself works by a process of continually converting gas into a liquid. Thanks to a refrigerant material being used in the tubing, all of the hot air that is inside of your home is going to travel outside and into the condenser coils where the hot air is removed from your home.
Ways To Avoid An Overworked AC Unit
Air conditioners are complex systems with various components working together to cool your home. If one part is malfunctioning, the whole system must work harder to meet your home’s thermostat setting. An air conditioner operating with a malfunction or obstruction will use more energy until it finally breaks down from being overworked. The following tips are crucial to giving your air conditioner a much needed break during a busy summer season!
- Maintain Your Air Conditioner
If you have not already scheduled your annual A/C tune-up, it is not too late to benefit. Your HVAC technician will perform a comprehensive check of your system to ensure optimum airflow, detect refrigerant leaks and clean the interior of your system to improve its performance. A tune-up will extend the life of your system, lower your utility bills and help prevent midsummer breakdowns.
Spray down your outdoor condensing unit each month to remove debris from the fins and help prevent dirt from building up on your condenser coil, which can prevent optimum heat exchange. Check your air filter monthly and replace it when you can no longer see through it. A clean filter will prevent dust from building up on your system and will maintain proper airflow to cool more effectively.
- Maintain Adequate Airflow
Ensure that there are no obstructions near the air vents inside and outside your home. Keep furniture, curtains, and other objects away from the vents for proper airflow. This allows the air conditioner to distribute cool air efficiently and avoid strain.
- Use Fans
Standing, ceiling, or box fans create a cool breeze and make rooms feel cooler. Utilizing fans throughout the summer allows homeowners to adjust their thermostat without feeling a comfort difference. The closer your thermostat setting is to the outdoor temperature, the lower the workload on your air conditioner. We recommend adjusting the thermostat setting whenever possible and utilizing fans to avoid sacrificing your comfort!
- Limit Appliance Use During the Afternoon
In the afternoon, the temperature outside is at its hottest. Running your appliances at this time can add a significant amount of heat to your home. While it may be hard not to use your stove during the day, you can wait until the evening hours to run your washer, dryer or dishwasher.
- Optimize Thermostat Settings
While we would never suggest making your home uncomfortable, we recommend bumping up your home’s temperature a few degrees when you are away or asleep. Set your thermostat to an efficient temperature, such as 78°F (25°C), to balance comfort and energy consumption. Not only will adjusting the thermostat decrease the workload on your air conditioner, but lower monthly bills as well.
- Install A Programmable Thermostat
If you want to take the air conditioner’s efficiency a step further, switch to smart units. A programmable thermostat allows you to maintain a consistent temperature range with your air conditioning. The thermostat also reduces the need to manually increase the readings as outside temperatures drop. There is also no risk of forgetting to set the right temperature before leaving your home.
- Replace All Incandescent Lights
If you still have incandescent lights, now is the time to make the switch to compact fluorescent lamps. Incandescent bulbs emit 90 percent of their energy through heat, which can cause a room to warm up quickly. Making the switch can help to not only cool your home but also lower your energy bills.
- Utilize Natural Ventilation
Take advantage of cooler evenings and mornings by opening windows to allow natural airflow. This can reduce the need for constant AC usage during moderate weather conditions.
- Close Your Blinds
The warmth from natural sunlight is one of the best things about the summer. However, letting in sunlight means more work for your air conditioner. We recommend keeping your blinds and curtains drawn (for windows that receive direct sunlight) between lunch and early evening to reduce the heat entering your home.
- Shade Your Home From the Outside
Shading your home from the sun’s hot rays can reduce the amount of heat that enters your home. Start with the windows that get the most sun. Consider planting trees, bushes, or shrubs a foot away from them so that they can block or filter the sun’s rays. You can also put up trellises and archways, or grow climbing vines and flowers.
- Proper Insulation and Weather-Stripping
As insulation ages, it is likely to become damaged or worn in some areas. When this occurs, heat can come into the home and conditioned air can escape. Add insulation in worn areas, making sure to pay attention to insulation around ductwork. If your insulation has been damaged by water or pests, consider giving it an upgrade.
Signs You Are Overworking Your Air Conditioner
If you are tired of wasting energy and money every month, your HVAC system could be responsible for around half of your energy bills. If something is wrong with it, it could be costing you more than you realize.
- Shocking Increases in Your Energy Bills
This may seem obvious, but unless your utility company has increased your gas or electric rates, or you have recently installed another energy-intensive appliance, monthly costs should be consistent year to year. An inefficient HVAC system will consume more energy to maintain a comfortable temperature, leading to higher energy bills. A slight increase in costs is normal with older units, because systems inevitably lose some of their efficiency to normal wear and tear, but big fluctuations are not. Check your billing history. If you notice that your energy bills have increased significantly without any changes in your energy usage, it’s time to inspect your HVAC system.
- Your Air Conditioner Struggles to Cool Your Home
If your air conditioner continuously turns itself on or off, this could be a short cycling issue. Short cycling will cause your AC to struggle to maintain the temperature set on the thermostat. Ultimately, short cycling can increase your energy bills, damage components and prevent your AC from keeping your home cool.
In many cases, short cycling is caused by an air conditioner that is too large for the home and has to be replaced. However, you might get lucky and find out that you simply have a dirty filter that desperately needs replacing. Either way, it is best not to guess about what the problem could be. A professional can easily determine the cause of the issue and tell you how to proceed from there.
- Your Home is Uncomfortably Humid
If you feel clammy indoors even when you are sitting in an air-conditioned room, it can be a good sign that something is wrong with your AC. That sticky feeling is a symptom of higher than usual humidity. An efficient HVAC should be able to control both temperature and humidity.
As warm air passes over a unit’s frigid evaporator coils, the moisture condenses, thereby removing moisture from the air. If, however, an AC unit’s evaporator coils are not cold enough—due to a loss of refrigerant or a maintenance issue—it will not remove as much moisture from the air. As a result, homeowners will often lower the thermostat even more to find some relief, forcing the HVAC to work harder and consume more energy.
- Your House Has Warm and Cool Spots
One of the biggest warnings that you have an air conditioner that is coming to the end of its life cycle is when it no longer can provide sufficient cool air to condition all the rooms. When you notice that rooms that are the farthest away from the HVAC unit are colder warmer than usual, it is time to call for a technician to see if you should repair or replace the system.
- You Hear Strange Noises
We are all familiar with the gentle whoosh of air coming from the AC. But if you are starting to hear new or strange sounds, it may be a sign of an aging or malfunctioning unit. These strange noises could be the result of a loose or malfunctioning component that could lead to further damage if left unchecked.
Among the most troubling AC-related noises are those like hissing, clanging, grinding and screeching. These noises are typically rooted in problems with leaks, obstructions, motor bearings or electrical issues.
Regardless of which particular noise you are hearing, they can all have a substantial effect on your air conditioner. Ignoring these issues could lead to costly consequences, particularly if you keep running the AC normally despite the damages. Take notice of the sounds carefully and call an expert to come and have a look at the unit.
Call Aire-Tech For AC Maintenance & Repair!
To avoid overworking your AC unit and ensure its efficient operation, following the tips mentioned above is crucial. Additionally, investing in professional AC maintenance services, such as those offered by our team, can provide long-term benefits, including improved energy efficiency, extended lifespan, better indoor air quality, warranty compliance, and access to expert diagnosis and repairs.
By taking proactive measures and seeking professional assistance, you can enjoy a cool and comfortable summer while protecting the longevity of your AC unit. If your system needs repair or inspection before winter, call Aire-Tech on 951-926-1002. You can also visit our Contact page and complete the contact form.