Sweltering heat doesn't belong in our homes, especially in the middle of summer. Learn what you can do to keep your A/C working smoothly and when to call a pro.
The long, hot days of summer provide hours and hours of outdoor fun. But after you’ve worked up a good sweat, it’s time to head indoors to refresh yourself. Few things in life are better than cranking up the air conditioning and taking a breather under a blast of ice-cold air. But there are few things worse than an air conditioning unit that breaks down right in the middle of the dog days, turning your house into a sauna.
To make sure your air conditioner is ready for peak use this summer, here are some A/C maintenance tips that will keep you from sweltering.
Inspect your outdoor unit.
To help ease its heavy summer workload, check up on your air conditioner unit while temperatures are still mild. A quick DIY inspection can determine if any professional servicing may be necessary.
Begin your inspection by powering down the unit so no parts are damaged. Next, inspect the area around the A/C condenser to make sure no debris (leaf litter, for example) has accumulated there. Any blockage might be enough to prevent air from entering the system.
Leaks can tax your A/C unit as well. Run your A/C long enough to test the flow from the indoor vents. If the air does not feel cool enough, your unit could be low on refrigerant. If the air feels sufficiently cool but isn’t moving with the expected force, try replacing the filter.
Lastly, don’t neglect your ductwork. Make sure that all vents in your home are cleared of obstructions, such as furniture, rugs and toys. And run your vacuum cleaner across your vents and returns in order to clear them of any dust.
Utilize ceiling fans.
Once summer arrives, you boost your A/C unit efficiency by running your ceiling fans. But before you switch them on, be sure to change the fan blade direction. The fan blades should turn counterclockwise in order to pull warm air up and draft cool air down. (For the winter, you’ll want to switch the blade direction back in order to drive warm air back down.) Look for a dedicated switch on your fan, or consult the unit’s manual for specific instructions.
Close your vents.
Take advantage of your ability to regulate the airflow throughout your home. By readjusting your ventilation on a room-by-room basis, you can direct cool air away from the parts of your home you seldom use and into its high-traffic, densely populated areas. If you do need to make a seldom-used area of the house more comfortable — a guest bedroom, for example — simply reopen any closed vents.
Draw the curtains.
In its battle against summer heat, your A/C will always be fighting at a disadvantage. No matter what it’s SEER rating, your A/C cannot match the energy output of the sun. And, depending on which way your windows face, your home may be even more susceptible to a steady rise in temperature over the course of the day. Consider installing blackout curtains in rooms with high levels of sun exposure. True to their name, these treatments create a barrier against solar energy — both the visible light the sun produces and the higher frequencies you can’t see but can definitely feel. You can also add a layer of extra protection using white reflective liners or window film to reflect sunlight and deflect the sun’s radiant heat.
Replace your filters.
Replace your filters every 30 days in order to keep cool air flowing through your A/C unit. If reusable filters are compatible with your unit, that option can help you cut down on waste and reduce the cost of cooling your home.
Make sure your thermostat is accurate.
Even smart thermostats can be fooled. Move any lamps or other appliances that may generate heat away from your thermostat. And try to avoid running your clothes dryer or turning on your oven during the hottest times of the day. Anything that puts out heat in your thermostat’s immediate vicinity will skew its temperature’s reading. Your thermostat may “think” your home is warmer than it is, and it may keep your A/C running longer and harder than it should.
Contact a professional.
Of course, sometimes your A/C problem is simply one you can’t fix on your home. If your simple fixes are not doing the trick, it may be time to contact a service professional. Luckily, your American Home Shield warranty means you have access to reputable HVAC experts like the ones at Air Authority LLC. This company is both North American Technician Excellence (NATE) and National Comfort Institute (NCI) certified and a 2015 AHS Quality Bonus Award-winning firm. Contact American Home Shield today for home protection and peace of mind that will last well after the summer has come and gone.