President, Jennings Heating Company
Two of the most important things you can do to care for your wholehouse air conditioner are to change your filters at least twice a year and to schedule a preseason air conditioning tune-up.
Filters should be changed at least once in the spring and once in the fall. Plugged filters increase the amount of energy required to operate your furnace and air conditioner. Worse, plugged or dirty filters can damage your air conditioning system and shorten its life.
A preseason air conditioning tune-up will keep your system working to maximum efficiency, reducing energy bills. A well-maintained air conditioning system can last as long as 15 to 20 years.
Other energy saving tips for the cooling season
• Close draperies to block out some of the sun’s radiant heat when you know it will be a warm day, especially on the south and west side of your home.
• Set your thermostat for the desired indoor temperature earlier in the day when the weatherman is predicting 88 degrees or more. A properly sized air conditioner will cool and dehumidify, but if the house is allowed to reach 80+ degrees inside before the air conditioner is turned on, it may take many hours for the system to catch up.
• Balance the airflow between floors if you notice your second floor gets several degrees warmer than the first floor in the summertime. Do this by using the balancing dampers found in most homes (located in the round pipes in the basement). When the metal tab is parallel to the pipe, the maximum airflow is going through the pipe; as you move the tab to the perpendicular position, the airflow is cut down. If your home doesn’t have these dampers, you can use the small tab on the register to increase or decrease the amount of airflow to each room. In a two-story home it is not uncommon for there to be several degrees difference between first and second floors; however if the temperature difference is more like 7 or 8 degrees, a balancing should be done to drive more cold air to the second floor.
• Be sure you have at least 6 to 10 inches of attic insulation. Anything less than that and you may be getting toasty, even after the sun goes down. All the stored attic heat from the day penetrates through the ceiling, heating the areas below. This is known as the “fly wheel affect.”
• Installing an attic fan will automatically push hot air to the outside when the temperature reaches 95 degrees in the attic space. This relieves some of the heat gain on the space below the attic.
• If your air conditioning system is approaching the end of its life span (over 15 years), it could pay to be proactive. Most air conditioning contractors begin to get busy after the warm weather hits, and you will receive better pricing during the preseason.
• Installing a high-efficiency air conditioner will reduce operating costs and can provide superior humidity control and comfort. Responding to government mandates, air conditioning manufacturers improved the efficiencies for air conditioning systems several years ago. Today, even a relatively standard efficiency unit (lower cost investment) will reduce the cost of cooling your home by 25 percent to 35 percent over a unit installed 15 years ago.