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Maintaining Your Air Conditoner

Air Conditioning Filters: Filter In Comfort - Filter Out Costs
The Healthy Home
Reduce Your Air Conditioning Cost
Air Conditioning Tune-ups are Profitable
How Do High Efficiency Air Cleaners Work?


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Reduce Your Air Conditioning Cost

Clean up and cool down and save money, too.

That's right... You could save as much as $30 a month on your utility bill by making sure your air conditioning system is cleaned and serviced regularly.

Studies conducted by the Louisiana Cooperative Extension Service and Gulf States Utilities Company show a clean, serviced system can:

  • Restore capacity by 1/2 to 3/4 tons
  • Improve humidity control
  • Reduce running time
  • All of these mean lower utility bills.
Here are things that cost you money:

Dirty filters cause dirt and lint to collect on blower wheels and inside coils, reducing cooling capacity and humidity control. A survey made by Extension showed 69% of you change filters fewer than five times a year.

Outside coils clogged with leaves, stems and grass clippings cause refrigerant pressure to increase and make the compressor work harder. In one Texas subdivision, a survey showed 76% of the outside coils needed cleaning.

Leaking refrigerant causes compressor to lose cooling capacity. A 10% refrigerant loss means a capacity loss of about 18%.

In summary, 57% of you may be paying a high price for cool air you are not getting.

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Take Action:

Call your air conditioning service professional now! Have the following checked and serviced now and each year hereafter:

  • Inside coils
  • Blower wheel
  • Filter
  • Outside coils
  • Ducts, controls and condensate system
  • After servicing, your system should be charged with refrigerant to factory specifications.
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Low Efficiency Indicator:

If you have doubts about the performance of your air conditioning system, there is a way you can make a quick check. Using a household thermometer, measure the temperature of the discharge air from the register and the temperature of the return air at the return air grill. Hold the thermometer in place for three or four minutes until it registers a steady temperature. Subtract the temperature of the air at the register from the temperature of the air at the return air grill. The difference should be from 14 to 20 degrees. Temperature difference less than 14 degrees could indicate that the system could be low on refrigerant or the air flow over the inside coil may be too great or you may have leaks in the return duct. These conditions are accompanied by an increase in length of cycle time, so it pays to note the cycling pattern and the time of each cycle of your system. Temperature difference larger than 20 degrees could mean a severe blockage of airflow over the inside coils. In either case, professional servicing of the unit will be profitable.

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Change Filters Regularly:

The best way to handle filter changes is to do it regularly throughout the year, such as each time you pay your utility bill. It may motivate you to remember this: a slightly dirty filter can reduce the capacity of a typical home air conditioning system by 1/4 ton. This illustrates how important air flow is to the performance of an air conditioning system, and that's why it pays to keep filters clean. Use quality filters that fit your unit properly.

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Profitable Tips:

Set your thermostat between 76 and 80 degrees. Most people are comfortable at this level when relative humidity is between 50% and 60%. Each degree the thermostat is moved upward represents a savings of from 3% to 5% of the air conditioning energy consumption.

Provide for some air movement in the conditioned space. Air movement at about 1 mile per hour will make you feel about 3 to 4 degrees cooler. This allows the thermostat to be set a little higher. Remember, each degree the thermostat is moved up saves from 3% to 5% of your energy consumption.

Don't depend on the air conditioning blower for air movement to make you comfortable; the velocity is much too low. It's best to set the fan control on automatic and leave it there. When the control is set on manual, the air moving through attic ducts picks up heat and delivers it into your home. This causes the thermostat to call for cooling much sooner. Bills go up.

Plant a tree shading the west side of your house. This is more effective today than it was when grandfather did it 50 years ago.

Keep plant foliage trimmed back 2 feet on each side at least 5 feet from the top of your outside unit. Plant foliage can restrict air circulation through the outside coils.

Cut grass around the outside unit so that the mower will throw grass clippings away from the coils. Better yet, cut the grass around the outside unit when the unit is off.

Some modern homes have clothes dryer vents exhausting directly into the outside coils. The lint stops up the outside coils, and the hot air reduces efficiency slightly. Provide an extension for the vent to direct exhaust air away from the outside unit.

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Help Your Air Conditioner Control Humidity:

One of the important things your air conditioning system does for your comfort is to control humidity. You can cut running time and save money by helping the system fight humidity. Here are some things you can do:

Keep windows and doors closed when outside humidity is rather high. This generally occurs between about 5 in the evening until about 9 0r 10 in the morning.

If windows are opened during the day, allow your air conditioner to run at night to dry out the accumulation of moisture in the house.

Leave your bathroom doors open so the system can remove shower moisture. If you have exhaust fans in the bathroom, operate them with the door locked to remove moisture.

Above all, don't allow your house to accumulate moisture over a continuous period on pleasant spring days, and, as the weather gets hotter, don't close it up with the air conditioner off for a two-week vacation. This is an invitation to mildew problems.

Instead, set the thermostat on 85 degrees to allow the unit to cycle on occasionally and remove inside moisture without using substantial energy.

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Selection of Replacement Equipment:

Before you spend extra money for a high efficiency air conditioning system, remember: If you allow the coils to get dirty, and can't keep the refrigerant in proper charge, your EER rating can drop from 9 to 7, so you're back where you started. First commit yourself to a good servicing program, and then purchase a new high efficiency system.

It's difficult to lose money when a professional has serviced an air conditioning system, especially when you follow up this service with good management. So clean it up, cool down and save.

For additional information, contact your local Cooperative Extension Service office.

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