12 air conditioner tips to beat the heat

Air conditioners need to be tuned up annually to maintain efficiency.

Air conditioners need to be tuned up annually to maintain efficiency.

Angie's List consulted with its highly rated heating and cooling companies for tips on making sure your air conditioning unit keeps you cool.

Call a professional: Each central air conditioning unit should be inspected, cleaned and tuned by a professional. A professional tune-up typically costs between $70 and $125.

Keep the filter clean: Clean and replace the air conditioner filter frequently (check the filter once a month). This is especially important during the summer when dust and allergens circulate. If the filter becomes clogged, your system will have to work harder to supply the same amount of cool air.

Made in the shade: Air conditioners with proper shading can be more efficient. Air in a shaded space is cooler than the surrounding air, meaning the A/C will have an easier time cooling the air.

Don’t take the heat: Don’t place lamps, TV sets, or other heat producing appliances near your thermostat. The thermostat senses the heat causing the air conditioner to run longer than necessary.

Dial for dollars: Remember that each degree you dial below 78 increases your energy consumption by about 8 percent. If your monthly electric bill is about $100, you’ll save $8 a month with EACH degree you can stand above 78.

Set and go: If it’s hard to remember to tweak your thermostat before you leave for work, consider investing in a programmable thermostat or a timer for your window unit.

Time to replace? You may find your old air conditioner is no longer efficient. Consider replacing your unit with an energy-efficient model. They’re usually more expensive but thanks to federal tax credits and competitive prices, the prices are falling, and because they use less energy, you save in the long-run, too. When replacing your A/C, look for a properly sized unit. If you install a unit that is too large, it will cycle on and off – reducing the efficiency of the system.

Don’t cool the whole neighborhood: Seal air leaks with caulking and weather-stripping. Add insulation around air conditioning ducts.

Feel the breeze: If your home has ceiling fans, switch your ceiling fan to run counterclockwise in the summer. That will push the cool air down. You can run a ceiling fan half the day for about $1.50 a month, compared to $25 for an air conditioner.

Watch the pavement: Avoid landscaping with lots of rock, cement, or asphalt on the south or west sides of your home. If it’s not shaded it will increase the temperature around the house and radiate heat.

Free from debris: Keep plants, shrubs, and other landscaping about two to four feet away from your outdoor unit to ensure adequate airflow.

Install window film: A great home improvement idea is to install home window film or tint to the insides of your windows. Not only can it help keep your house cooler in the summer, but also warmer in the winter.


Comments

Don't forget about switching to CFL lighting instead of incandescent. Incandescent light is 90% heat while fluorescents not only burn cooler but also use 25% of the energy for the same amount of brightness, and last about 10X longer, win/win.

If you talk to someone who really knows light bulbs they will tell you to buy newer LED's instead of CFL. Number one, if you buy CFL at all, make sure you have purchased ones which are MERCURY FREE. Many are not, and if you break a bulb you literally have a hazmat situation on your hands, as in don't vacuum, tear up and throw away rugs, throw away contaminated clothing and bedding. Seriously, read up on how to clean up a broken CFL if it contains mercury. Second, the lifespan of CFL's seriously diminish if you turn them on and off alot. They are really a technology for commercial applications where the lights go on and stay on for 12-18 hours, or continuously. Also, if you have multiple recessed or other lamps on same switch/circuit, make sure you are using all the same bulbs, don't mix. Also reduces life. LED's deal well with the on/off, the color of the light is better, and they never have mercury.

Re: number 9...Correct summer setting is forward, or counter-clockwise. Winter setting is reverse, or clockwise.

Kelly, No. 9 Is correct you always want your fan turning counter clock wise in the summer. This causes a downward breeze causing you to feel cooler, In the winter time you turn your fan to run clockwise which pulls cool air from the floor to the ceiling where warmer air is forcing the warmer air down.

• BEWARE of the "Annual Tune-ups" for discounted prices! These sales are often used by the vendor to "find" extras that are bogus and not included in the price -- charging inflated prices for material and labor for parts that are not needed; venting freon and then charging excess cost to replace; and charging exorbitant rates for house cleaning that the average home owner can easily accomplish. • That's only ELEVEN -- Number 3 and number 11 are the same! • Number 5 is not contextually correct, If you increase 8% for each degree colder than (BELOW) 78 degrees, that has no direct correlation with saving 8% for each degree (ABOVE) 78 degrees that you set your thermostat. • Number 6 is INCORRECT. Setting back the thermostat for short durations (less than 24 hours or less) is easily demonstrated as NOT cost effective, and less comfortable. It takes a lot more energy to cool down a home over a short period, than it does to retain a steady state interior temperature. Allowing the home to increase inside temperature during shorter periods, allows building materials to heat soak which takes longer to return it to cooler states; to re-cool the house usually will occur during hotter periods of the day, rather than the cooler periods; and it allows humidity levels (moisture) to rise during the setback time, which causes the air to feel warmer and less comfortable and takes a much longer time to reduce again after the fact. • Number 9 is factually incorrect. Heat rises, so static air closer to the ceiling is always several degrees warmer than near the floor. Using a ceiling fan PUSHES THE HOTTER AIR DOWNWARD, not the cool air! The main advantage to a ceiling fan is that it causes the air to be more uniformly mixed, floor to ceiling, AND it causes more rapid air circulation which allows perspiration to evaporate more quickly, thus cooling the skin and increasing comfort. • A point not mentioned is the benefit of setting your A/C FAN switch to always "ON" rather than automatic. This keeps the air circulating throughout the house more uniformly; better balances the air temperature between basement, 1st and 2nd floors (when only a single unit or thermostat is controlling the cooling); and recognizes that the max electrical load on the fan is the starting load, so leaving the fan running 24/7 is equal or cheaper than having it stop and start with the A/C compressor.

My A/C Specialist advises that you should leave the fan running all the time by turning the switch from "Auto" to "On". It takes more electricity to start and stop the fan than to run constantly. Second, it does keep the air circulated thought the house without having the cold and hot air pockets.

It depends on which side of the country you live in. If you live in the east where humidity is a problem, running the fan all the time will counteract the dehumidification effect you get from conditioning the air, thus making you less comfortable. In the west, where the climate is drier, running the fan all the time is not a problem.

Re:number 9. Hot air rises, does it not? So you want to run the fan counter-clockwise in the winter, I believe.

This advice is pure gold, as we have spent hundreds of $$$ and misery this year on our 17-year old unit for our home built in 1956...the cost soars quickly and miserably.

i would like to install window film to a few windows, Can you please tell me which type should I used.

Helpful info, thanks

Once you get the unit professionally cleaned keep the outside unit hosed down every few months to keep dirt build up plus keep a check on your drainage line to make sure it does not back up in your attic. My husband suggests pouring some Clorox in the drain to eat mold build-up. He also has safety switches on our units so if there is a power surge, etc. it will not destroy the units. Our units are 20 years old and running strong.

Your system is 20 years old and running strong? That's great!! But how much is your out of warranty system costing you to run each month? Knowing you would save anywhere from 30 to 50% each month, having a new system will help you to breath a heathier environment. How can anyone choose to keep a system 20 yrs old? I would bet you will begin to have problems sooner than later and that your systems days are numbered. Btw. Are you checking capacitors and contractor points for wear? This is just a few more things needed to check your systems performance.

Great ideas. The dark film is one I am going to start with especially in my sunroom. Most of your suggestions I already do except for the thermostat. We keep it at 75 degrees because we're comfortable with that temperture.

It's not difficult to be comfortable with the termostat set at 65 or even 55 in the winter. If you're used to having it set at 75 and want to save money and contribute less to global warming, you can gradually reduce the setting a month at a time. If you feel cold, put on warmer clothes. If you've been sitting, stand up and do some vigorous exercise like jumping jacks, running up and down stairs or jumping rope. It's good for your body, your brain and the planet.

Window film voids your window warranty!!! Solar Screens are much better and the added benefits are to many to list.

Come on! IF something were to go wrong with the glass ( unlikely) it isn't that difficult to remove window film. A major differentiating factor between film and a solar screen is the view. If the window has a limited view or isn't something you care about; then screens are fine. If you want to have the clearest possible view (while reducing heat transmission) then film is a better choice. Also, most fixed windows will not provide a means of installing a screen; without screwing into the exterior frame (which would definitely void your warranty; with no option of reversing the install). You could mount on the side of your house, past the actual window frame; but this typically is not very aesthetic. in the end, either solution is debatable; depending upon the specific installation. Neither should be automatically ruled out or in; without consideration of multiple factors (Cost, Savings to be gained depending upon regional environment, Aesthetics Desired, etc. ). Depending upon the age of your existing windows, it might even make more sense to replace them with modern Low-E or alternative insulating windows.

#9 makes no sense the way it is worded. Hot air rises and cool air sinks!

I have a friend in the AC business. His comment was if the AC is working well (15 degree or better differential) then leave it alose or you will waste your money

If your friend in the AC business has given you this advise. Your friend is probably old school. And if he is licensed, his license should be reconsidered offering this kind of advise. What is this AC friends of yours company name? He is giving you wrong advise. So don't listen to him. Let me ask you this, do you feel the same about your car? Don't service your car. What will happen if you take that advise? Your engine will eventually fail, leaving you stranded when you least expect it. My advice, don't listen to this friend of yours. NOT GOOD ADVICE.

Another tip is consider installing radient heat barrier in the attic. I used Alenco (local KC company) to install their eShield product which is garanteed to save 25% in cooling and heating costs. I can really tell the difference in the 2nd floor this summer.

Radiant heat barriers are something to possibly consider when building a home, but trying to retrofit one is probably cost prohibitive. Same result can be achieved by increasing attic floor insulation.

I believe that #9 should read "Pull the cool air up" not down. Warm air rises and cool air sinks. Like a hot air balloon. That is why in the winter you run the fans the other direction to pull the warm air down.

Solar window screens are much more energy efficient than window film. Screens stop the solar heat gain BEFORE it hits the glass

#3 & #11 Are the same I'm sure you heard this befor

Actually these are not the same. I re-read them and one is to keep the unit free of debris and the other is to have it shaded if possible. Unless someone changed those tips before i read it, at least they are different now.

re #9 Tpo... You want to pull the cool air up. Warm air rises, cool air sinks :-)

VJMOOSE, how's this - warm air rises and cool air sinks. Set the ceiling fan counter-clockwise in the summer to pull up the cool air and distribute it throughout the room. Set the fan clockwise in the winter to send the warm air downward and distribute it throughout the room.

As it has been explained to me, and makes sense: either direction creates a convection which will push the warm air down and pull the cool air up, it's just a matter of whether that is happening directly under the fan or at the outer edges of the room. If the fan is sufficiently sized for the room and running at a sufficient speed, the temperature variation from the floor to the ceiling will be minimal. Having the fan blow the air down will provide a breeze, making it seem cooler (preferred in the summer). Having the fan pull the air up will prevent the breeze from hitting you (preferred in the winter). [Note: using the terms clockwise and counter-clockwise might not be the best way to describe how to set them, as our fans blow the air down when they are running counter-clockwise.]

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