With most of us relying on our home air conditioning units for relief from the sweltering Florida sun, every homeowner should know the basics about their AC system. In the summer, that reliance becomes dependence, and if there’s a problem with the air conditioner, that dependence turns into desperation. Knowing a few things about your central air conditioning unit can help lessen or eliminate potential problems.
Here’s what to know:
1) Don’t Stress the Unit
Stressors on your central AC take several forms and make the air conditioner’s job more difficult. Being aware and taking measures to prevent unnecessary burdens on your AC system can save you time and a lot of money in the long run. Some things to remember are:
The 20 Degree Rule
Most AC units are built to cool the air 20 degrees. If it’s 90 degrees outside, your air conditioner will bring it to 70 degrees without much difficulty. If it’s 100 degrees outside, trying to cool the air circulating inside to 70 degrees is asking too much of the unit. This will cause your AC to work too hard, and over time, cause problems.
Keep the Sun Out
Blinds or shades should be closed to keep the heat outside. This is particularly true of west-facing windows, which receive more direct sunlight. If you want to keep your view and the sun out, solar window films are worth consideration.
Let the Heat Out
The central unit’s fan works hard to move hot air up and away from the house. Anything blocking moving air will make that process more difficult.
- Shrubbery or Branches should be trimmed away from the unit; 12 to 18 inches of space is recommended.
- Awnings, Fencing, or Shade Trees should be kept away from the unit’s exhaust area. If any heat is retained, that’s more stress on the unit.
Help Remove Humidity
Humidity is removed by the AC unit during the cooling process. The more humidity in the air it recirculates, the harder it has to work. When showering or cooking, keep vents on to remove as much water from the air as possible. If air-drying clothes or linen, dry them outside.
Keep the Air Moving
Smooth circulation of air throughout the house is a vital part of the cooling process. Closed doors hinder this circulation and make the AC unit’s job more difficult. Keep doors opened or cracked to encourage circulation.
2) Keep the Unit Clean
As with anything that we care about, keeping the air conditioning unit and its components clean is necessary for efficiency and longevity. Here are some tips to ensure optimal performance:
Change the Filter Frequently
Located at the air-intake inside your home, the filter catches hair, dust, and other debris, and keeps them from getting caught in the vents or AC unit. An overloaded filter will slow air passing through it and force the unit to work harder than necessary. The frequency with which they should be changed depends on some factors:
- Number of occupants
- Air-borne allergies those occupants might have
- Number of pets
- Dust/pollen in the surrounding environment
A home with one occupant and no pets can get away with changing their filters every three to four months. A four-person family without pets or allergies should change their air filters every one to two months. A family with allergies and pets should change their filters twice a month. It’s a good idea to purchase multiple filters at a time so that you always have one on hand.
3) Know When to Call the Experts
If there’s a problem with the AC unit beyond a clogged filter or overworking, call an expert. Regular, detailed AC tune-ups and maintenance is simply a necessity, as air conditioning is a sophisticated blend of physical properties and scientific mechanisms working in tandem, and is easily bungled by an untrained hand.
When the air conditioning goes out, life gets put on hold. By following these rules and knowing when to ask for help, we can keep our days cool and our nights restful.