Get Ready for Air Conditioning Season (In Time for September)

by Erik North on August 13, 2012

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Yeah, this is what happens when your writing begins to back log. At least future summers will be able to enjoy this post. In any case, I’m pushing for a September-October heat wave.

I’ve written in-depth articles about each of these snippits before. I figure it’s about time we had cursory, tossed-off versions collected in one place. It’s important. But as the weather gets warmer (or hotter if you live somewhere not – Maine), there’s some sensible, simple actions you can take to make your house easier to cool. So … how to get your house ready for air conditioning season.

1. Number One, Don’t Panic. Wait, that’s how you survive hitchhiking the galaxy.

Check Your Air Conditioner – As the weather turns pleasant and you flee to the beach, don’t forget the equally fun task of changing your central air system’s air filter. It’s easy (once you know how) and eases AC air flow. Check it at the beginning of the warm weather and change it if it is clogged with dirt and dust.

Central Air Maintenance– Central air systems have the additional bit outside. The condensing coils (usually a squat fan sitting next to your house), get dirty and clogged just like inside. Make sure the coils are clean and all air intakes cleared.

Clean the Vents/Registers– With central air systems, air flow means working. If the vents and registers are obstructed, closed, dusty, stuck behind furniture or in other ways not loved, they will not work well.

Check The Water Drains– Both central and window air conditioners have water drains for the moisture that condenses on the cooling coils. Check to make sure that the drains are clear, allowing proper drainage. Blocked drains can cause the water to back up, potentially icing up inside the AC.

Window units often are installed seasonally, heading into storage for the winter. When re-installed, check that the drain is tilted outward to drain to the outside. Draining inside the house is bad.

Awnings and Shading– The most powerful driver of summer heat is the sun. I’m sure you’re shocked. But what we’re talking about is the sun beating on your walls and roof and streaming through the windows. Adding an awing or window shades to windows with heavy sun exposure can cut down on how hard your AC works.

Ceiling Fans– Do you have a ceiling fan? Use it. The biggest challenge with ceiling fans is people not using them. While a fan won’t cool you off per se, the brisk air movement will make you feel more comfortable. Then you can more easily follow this next piece of advice.

Turn up the Thermostat– Aggh! I know, the biggest knock on energy efficiency is that you fiddle with the thermostat and suck it up if you’re uncomfortable. In this case, we’re saying use the fan, window shades, everything to make the house more comfortable, then tick the thermostat up a few degrees. And suck it up.

Thermostat in the Sun– Speaking of thermostats, I don’t often get AC related calls living in Maine. But it happens occasionally, and it usually has to do with the thermostat. For God’s sake, make sure the thermostat isn’t trapped behind a door, in a sunny room, or in direct sunlight. Otherwise, the air conditioner will never turn off.

Air conditioning can be a big chunk of your electric bill so pay attention for a day or two at the start of the cooling season to avoid simple issues.

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