What is the single largest energy consuming appliance in your home? If
you have central cooling, it is the air conditioner. If you want to
save home energy, first look at the largest energy user. Yes, if it
breaks down, you need to call your service person; the air conditioner
is a complex piece of machinery. However there are actions you can
take to keep the system running and minimize the energy used. These 5
tips are essential to this goal.
Change indoor filter. A dirty air filter blocks air flow, forcing the
pressure in the indoor coil to decrease. The compressor in the air
conditioner will work harder to achieve the lower pressure; this
increases energy use. The amount of cooling also decreases, causing
the unit to run longer. Due to the low air flow, rooms at the end of
the duct may not get enough air and be warmer. The tendency is to
lower the thermostat setting to compensate; more energy wasted. If you
have a 4 inch filter, change it each season; once before summer and
once before winter. One inch filters may need to be changed each month
during peak summer and winter.
Clear debris from outdoor unit. Air must flow freely through the
outdoor coil. When unit is operating, place your hand over the top.
You should feel a strong warm wind. If not strong or the air is very
hot, call your service person. Any debris like grass and leaves can
block air flow. The air conditioning compressor must work harder which
increases energy use. Capacity also declines, so it must run longer.
If the coil is very dirty, do not spray water from your garden hose on
the outside of the unit. This will push dirt further into the coil. To
clean the coil, follow these steps. Pull the disconnect at the unit
and remove the top (do not pull on the wires). Wash from inside out
with garden hose. Make sure water drains out the bottom of the unit.
Reattach top, re-engage disconnect. If you do not feel comfortable in
doing this, then your air conditioning service person can clean your
Look for icing on pipe. Look at the larger of the two copper pipes
going into the indoor coil. If you see any ice, then you have a
problem. It is normal to have cold water condensed on the pipe, if it
gets too cold the water will freeze. This temperature is too low for
the air conditioner. Either the air flow is blocked, very dirty filter
or worse. Or the unit is low on refrigerant; the likely culprit. It is
possible both problems could exist. This icing will not usually cause
immediate damage, but if not fixed it can lead to premature failure of
your compressor. This is a cost of several thousand dollars for total
unit replacement. You cannot fix this yourself; call your air
conditioning service company. The cost of a service call to add
refrigerant is much lower than replacing the air conditioner.
Adjust thermostat to highest comfortable setting. The air conditioner
runs only till the setting on the thermostats is met. Raise the
setting, the unit runs less. Many people try to tell you what the
setting should be. It is your home, you decide what you want. Try
increasing a degree at a time. When it becomes uncomfortable, reduce a
degree or two.
Close window shades. Sunlight coming in through the windows adds a
significant amount of energy. Your air conditioner must remove all of
this energy. Also, direct sunlight fades furniture and carpet. Any
method to block or reflect light energy reduces the solar gain added
to your cooling. Many options are available, you decide what you want.
Just consider how well sunlight is blocked when making your decision.
There may not be any quicker actions that can be taken to save as much
energy as these tips to save home energy at your air conditioner.
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