Making the Most of Your Air Conditioning Unit

July 1, 2021 | Love Where You Live | By: The Goodhart Group

The sweltering heat and intense humidity of DC-area summers can challenge even the best and newest air conditioning system. If you’ve ever wondered if your system is operating as best it can, read on. 

First things first. How does your air conditioning work?

Think of your AC unit as a two-process machine. It takes warm air from inside your home and transfers it to the outdoor condenser. It also releases the cool air back into the rooms of the house reducing their temperature. On hot days, your AC unit needs to work doubly hard to combat these temperatures. Excessive humidity also requires your unit to work extra hard to get rid of that damp, clammy air. The unit’s performance is dependent on the proper circulation of air throughout the entire system.

So, how can you make your AC work more efficiently? There are several things you can do:

Proper Airflow: Ensure there’s nothing blocking your AC unit, such as trees or bushes. Aim for a foot of clearance around the unit. 

Location: To help reduce the strain (as well as wear and tear), put a bit of shade over the outside unit. Make sure this shade does not obstruct the airflow in any way.

It’s important to note here that an AC unit should NOT be installed under a deck. While open on three sides, the more restricted airflow requires the unit to work harder than necessary. Additionally, check that nothing is blocking the vents inside your home. 

Also, check the location of your thermostat. If your thermostat is located in a particularly hot part of your home, like next to a sunny window, lamp, or heat-generating appliance, it may not gauge your home’s temperature properly. This is an easy fix.

Keep it clean. Cleaning the entire HVAC system will help keep it functioning well. Be sure to change the filter regularly. Aim for every 90 days (or half that when your AC is working hard). Keep the unit’s coils clean (learn how here). Vacuum your home’s vents and registers and consider a professional duct cleaning. 

Fix any gaps and air leaks. 

Keep all of the registers open. This one may seem counterintuitive but if you close the registers in certain rooms, it affects the cooling load your AC system has to manage. Over time, it can damage the system and work less efficiently to cool your home.

Try to lower the interior temperature. Close curtains and blinds, whenever you can, to help cool the rooms. Try to minimize the usage of heat-generating appliances (in other words, grill outside instead of turning on the oven!) and lights. 

Insulate any exposed ductwork. The ductwork in any unconditioned spaces should be properly sealed so it doesn’t leak any of your conditioned air.

The Bottom Line

To help your AC unit run more efficiently, keep the unit clean and well-maintained. Do what you can inside to help lower the overall temperature of the home so the system doesn’t have to work as hard.