Now is a great time to check out your air conditioner. If you do need a repair, you’ll have ample time to find a professional before really hot weather arrives when finding someone could take much longer and cost you BIG Bucks! This is the first item on your list: schedule your HVAC professional for your yearly clean and check-up. Make sure these items are included: checking refrigerants and pressures; cleaning and checking blowers and fans; cleaning and inspecting coils; adjusting and replacing fan belts; and inspecting controls and safeties. Remember: it needs to be at least 65-70 degrees outside to check operating temperature.
There are a few things you can do on your own to make your unit more efficient. At installation time (for both central air condenser and compressor units and window air conditioners) choose the coolest, shadiest spot. A unit in full sun can lose as much as 10% efficiency. Install units on the north or east side of the house and build a shade screen if necessary. For both kinds of units, ensure there are 24 inches of clear space on all sides. Trim back bushes, trees, and shrubs.
Check your ducts for leaks. Use a stick of incense to find them. The smoke blowing will show you leaks you can’t even feel. Use duct mastic if you have large leaks; foil tape will take care of small ones. Check around window units too and use foam and duct tape to seal these leaks. Attic or crawl space ducts need insulation for efficiency. Wrap in batt insulation and seal with foil tape. Don’t use duct tape in these hot areas.
Be smart in the house. Use blinds or shades on south facing windows. Circulate cool air with floor and ceiling fans. You might think closing off rooms will save money, but this is not true with central units. Closing off rooms throws the system out of balance because there is less air flow. For privacy, leave doors open around 10 inches. Use a smart thermostat to turn units down when not at home. Use the installed timer on your window units and adjust when no one is home. Don’t turn them off completely unless you’re going to be gone for an extended period of time.
KATHLEEN WEAVER-ZECH & DEAN’S TEAM CHICAGO