It’s May, which means summer is right around the corner. And that means folks across the country are going to start using their air conditioners a lot more.
If you’re like us, then you’re not looking forward to the prospect of your AC cranking away during brutal summer afternoons when you can actually see the heat rise off the pavement. After all, it’s expensive. And when your AC is working overtime, small unseen problems have a tendency to become big-time headaches.
Here are four things you can do before the heat arrives to ensure that your AC is in good shape and running efficiently this summer.
1. Change Your Air Filter
Probably the easiest way to improve the efficiency of your AC this summer is to replace your AC filter with a clean, new one. Keeping a relaxed airflow through your AC system — as opposed to a restricted airflow from dirty, clogged filters — will help keep your AC equipment from working harder than it needs to in order to cool your home. That means not only a more efficient AC, but also lower electricity bills.
Clean filters will also help keep dirt and other particles from collecting on critical parts of your AC, which will help prevent performance–related inefficiency and damage to your cooling system.
For the best results, you should replace your AC filter now and then every month heading into the summer. During the warmest months, when your AC works the hardest and pulls the most air, you may want to replace your AC filter more often than each month, depending on how often your AC system kicks on and what type of filters you use.
2. Have an HVAC Technician Inspect Your Equipment
You should have an HVAC technician inspect your AC equipment at least once a year. In parts of the country that depend heavily on air conditioning, the best time to get your AC inspected is now, before summer hits and repair wait times grow. The technician will make sure your equipment is in tip-top shape and running as efficiently as it can. If your equipment has issues, you’ll get a heads-up about what the problems are. And, if you get your system inspected now, you’ll have time to fix them before summer heat has a chance to turn small issues into bigger problems.
3. Check Your Air Ducts for Leaks
The ducts that carry air into and around your home are an important feature when determining the efficiency of your AC. Just think of your AC as your home’s heart and the air ducts like its arteries and veins and you’ll understand how critical they are.
If your ducts have holes on the way to your AC system, dirty air can find its way to your equipment, hurting its efficiency or even damaging it. If your ducts have leaks on the way to vents in your home’s living spaces, cool air can seep out before it gets to you. In either case, your AC system’s efficiency will suffer. Pro tip: Don’t close the vents in unused rooms to try and save a buck. Not only does this not work, but the increased pressure it places on your ducts can cause leaks.
You can have an HVAC technician check for leaks or you can do it yourself. To check yourself, inspect the ducts for tears or holes and then take a close look at each exposed duct joint. If you see dust or lint near a suspected problem spot or feel cool airflow while your AC is running, you know you have an air leak. You can seal these kinds of leaks easily with mastic sealant or metal tape. Avoid duct tape, as it doesn’t last very long. For bigger leaks, or larger duct problems, you might have to hire a professional.
4. Keep Your AC Equipment Clean
Dirt, grime and obstructions make your AC equipment work harder than it needs to, which can cause your electricity bill to climb alongside rising summer temperatures. To increase your AC unit’s efficiency, and avoid equipment damage from dirt-buildup on individual components, follow these cleaning tips:
-Once a year, sometime before summer, hire a duct cleaning service to thoroughly clean your ducts.
-Routinely check your outside AC unit to make sure that it’s clear of obstructions. Trim back shrubs, plants and other greenery that get too close.
-Once a month, use a shop vacuum to suck the dirt out of your ducts and clear dirt from around AC equipment.
National Geographic, “How to Increase Efficiency of a Central Air Conditioner.”