Prepare for Summer by Improving the Energy Efficiency of your Air Conditioner

By Vernon Trollinger, March 27, 2013, Energy Efficiency, Home Improvement

air-filtersWith spring already officially here and hot weather just around the corner, it’s a good idea to get your air conditioning system (also known as your HVAC system) ready for summer cooling. While it is recommended that you get your air conditioning system checked out by a professional air conditioning technician every once in awhile, there are a few things you can do yourself to increase the energy efficiency of your home’s air conditioning system.

Check Those Air Filters

Clogged air filters can add to the cost of running your HVAC air conditioning. Dirty furnace filters restrict the amount of air that is pulled into the air conditioning system’s fan. Consequently, less air can be cooled and dehumidified by the system and the blowing force of the fan is also reduced. As a result, you will want to turn down the thermostat —which makes the air conditioning system use even MORE energy. A clean furnace filter allows more air to flow through the system where it is cooled more rapidly and blown with more force. This causes the air to better circulate through your home, and since you’re using less power to blow that air, it improves the energy efficiency of your HVAC system.

Most manufacturers recommend replacing furnace filters every three months. While disposable furnace filters are usually inexpensive, washable / reusable air furnace filters are available. A good strategy is to buy two reusable furnace filters so you can quickly swap in the clean one and take your time to thoroughly wash and dry the other.

Clear the Condensation Pan

Another area to check this spring when you’re looking over your air conditioning system in preparation for the summer is the condensation pan and drip hose. The condensation pan collects water that condenses on the cooling coils when the air conditioning system is running. Water trickles into the condensation pan and then runs down a drainage tube. Dust and dirt can collect in the pan and tubing and block the water from draining out of the system (sometimes causing mold to grow). It may also dribble inside your air conditioning system and reduce its energy efficiency.

The problem is that the condensation pan is usually enclosed inside the system. To clear a blockage, disconnect the drain tube from the collection pan outlet and insert a small bottle brush to ream out any blockage. Some units use tubing, others use PVC pipe (condensation pan). A good hack for PVC is to insert a T-joint and a short length of PVC pipe. the next step is use a wet-dry vacuum to suck any blockage out of the tubing or pipe. To keep the drain system clean, pour a cup of bleach down the pipe or tubing during summer use.

If you continue to have condensation problems, then consider having a air conditioning professional examine it.


Clean the External Housing

Outside, the heat exchanging unit typically needs some cleaning when spring rolls around. During the fall, falling leaves and other debris can get inside the fan housing and block air flow from being blown through the cooling coils. Dust and pollen from trees and shrubs can also form a sticky coating on the coils and reduce their energy efficiency. Beginning in the spring, and every so often throughout summer, wash out the cooling coils with a hose. Be sure to turn off the air conditioning before hand.

Also check over the exchanger for excessive rust on the sides (dogs maybe “marking” it). Corrosion can damage the unit and cause coolant leaks. Also look for frayed or loose wires since this could lead to dangerous electrical shorts and fires.

It’s also a good idea to run your air conditioning now for a few minutes to make sure it is working normally. If you find a problem during this seasonal shake-down run, you’ll find it easier to get it fixed promptly rather than in the middle of a summer heat wave.

Clear the Dust from your Ceiling Fans

Though they’re not exactly part of your air conditioning system, ceiling fans enhance your home’s energy efficiency by cooling and circulating the air in your home during winter and summer. Remember to clean ceiling fans every time you change furnace filters (if not sooner). Accumulated dirt and dust make your ceiling fans work harder and reduce airflow.

For more tips on preparing your air conditioner for summer, be sure to check out this great video on Bounce Energy’s YouTube channel.

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