The full wrath of Texas summer heat has been unleashed on Houston, with temperatures climbing into the triple digits with startling regularity, and no end in sight. With that in mind, it’s more important than ever to make sure your AC system is in tip-top shape and cooling with maximum efficiency. These tips will help you keep your AC maintained properly and allow you to relax in comfort, even when it’s scorching outside.
Clean the Exterior Unit Annually
Dirt, leaves and other debris can get trapped in your condenser/compressor (the big box part outside your house) and cause it not to work effectively. To clean it, simply turn off the power to the unit (look for a shut off on the unit itself, and turn off power at the breaker box), and remove the fan cage with a screwdriver. Then you can use your hands or a wet/dry vacuum to remove any debris that may be present.
While you’re at it, use a water hose on full pressure to clean the fins, the part on the sides of your condenser/compressor. Don’t use a pressure washer, as excessive force can damage or bend the fins. When you’ve finished, just reattach the fan cage, turn it back on, and voila!
Change Your Filters Regularly
While you might think that your filters don’t affect the operation of your AC very much, when they are clogged with dust, hair, and dirt, they make the unit work harder than necessary and it can become stressed and give out. Filters should be changed monthly or quarterly, depending on which filters you buy. Consider buying them in packages of three so you don’t have the excuse of being out of filters as often. Plus, you’ll get them cheaper that way. If you have a home warranty, you may have access to discounted filters through your home warranty provider. Changing filters is easy, quick, and has the added benefit of improving the air quality in your home. This is especially important if anyone in your family suffers from allergies or asthma.
Set Your Thermostat Wisely
If it’s 105 degrees outside, and your AC is set to 68, your system is going to have to work really hard to keep up, increasing the likelihood that it will go out. Keep your AC set on the highest temperature at which you can be comfortable, and you’ll reduce its workload and extend its life. You’ll also save money on your electric bill and reduce your environmental impact. According to Consumer Reports, 78 is the ideal setting for your thermostat. If that seems too warm, try to compensate but wearing cooler clothes and installing ceiling fans, if you don’t already have them. Keep your blinds down during the day to help prevent your home from warming up as much as if the sun was streaming in the windows all day.
Get a Professional Tune-up
There are some AC maintenance tasks that are beyond the scope of what most homeowners can or prefer to do themselves. Consider having an annual check-up performed by a local HVAC professional, who can examine and clean your condenser coils, remove mold or algae that may be growing in your drain lines, and charge your AC with freon if it’s running low. Most HVAC companies offer low-cost maintenance visits, and as the saying goes- “an once of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” When your home is cool and comfortable and your neighbor is suffering for a few days waiting for a repairman to come out, you’ll be glad you invested a little in maintaining your AC system before it broke down.