3 Easy Ways to Keep Your Florida A/C Cooling Efficiently This Summer

April 08, 2014

14-SEER vs. 18-SEER

Summer is coming. And since your air conditioner will be working overtime to keep you cool, so are high utility bills.

But you don’t have to flinch every time the utilities come in the mail if you keep your A/C running efficiently.

Here are 3 do-it-yourself ways to keep your home A/C from becoming an energy hog.

1) Change the air filter once a month

Your air conditioner moves tons of air during the summer, meaning your air filter is going to fill up with dirt—fast.

But don’t leave a dirty air filter in your return ducts. It’ll ruin your air conditioner’s efficiency.

According to ENERGY STAR,“A dirty filter will slow down air flow and make the system work harder to keep you warm or cool — wasting energy. A clean filter will also prevent dust and dirt from building up in the system — leading to expensive maintenance and/or early system failure.”

Change the filter at least once a month. Have your phone send you a reminder to do it the 1st of every month.

To find the type of air filter you need, check out our article, What is MERV? A Homeowner’s Guide to Choosing an Air Filter.

2) Cut shrubbery around the outside A/C unit

Over time, plants and shrubbery can grow around your air conditioner's outside unit. While this may keep the unit out of sight from the street, it will cost you in higher energy bills.

Here’s why:

Imagine you went on a 10k marathon during the summer—with a sweater on. The sweater would keep heat from radiating out of your body, causing you to overheat.  That’s what it’s like for your air conditioner when it’s covered in shrubbery.

The outside unit’s job is to allow the refrigerant to release heat so the refrigerant can cool down. Then the refrigerant can go back to the inside unit to absorb more heat from your indoor air, leaving your air cool. Here's a graph from the AHRI to show you what we mean:

But shrubbery restricts airflow around the outside unit so it can’t release the heat properly, just like if you were wearing a sweater in the middle of summer.

This will:

  • Decrease the air conditioner's efficiency
  • Reduce the air conditioner’s lifespan
  • Can cause damage to the outside unit

Leave at least 12 inches above and around your outside unit free of any branches or shrubbery.

3) Clean the outside unit before summer hits

And speaking of wearing a sweater while running, take a look at this air conditioner’s coils. On the left is what it looked like before we cleaned it. On the right is after.

As you can see, in addition to shrubbery your air conditioner’s outside unit has several other enemies including:

  • Leaves
  • Dirt
  • Dust

When these cover your outside unit’s condenser coils (tubes that the refrigerant is flowing through), it reduces airflow and prevents heat from escaping. Just like the shrubbery would.

So, before summer starts, make sure you clean the junk off the outside unit. We recommend having this done as part of your yearly tune up. But it is something you could do yourself. Just make sure you know what you’re doing before beginning. And get a professional’s help, if you need it.

Here’s how to clean your coils.

Things you’ll need:

  • Air conditioner coil cleaner. When selecting a coil cleaner, follow your air conditioner manufacturer’s recommendations..
  • Water hose with sprayer attachment.
  • Gloves and eye protection

How to clean the condenser coils:

  1. Find the electrical disconnect (a metal box) near the outside unit.
  2. Open the electrical disconnect.
  3. Find the switch that turns off the air conditioner. (It’s either a pull out switch or a circuit breaker switch.)
  4. Turn the switch to the “off” position.
  5. Clean off loose debris (grass, leaves, etc) on the outside unit with the sprayer.
  6. Spray the outside unit with the coil cleaner. (Follow the coil cleaner’s instructions to ensure safety.)
  7. Wait 10-15 minutes. The cleaner will foam and bond with the dirt on the coils.
  8. Rinse the coil cleaner off with the sprayer.

For help, call an AC professional

These are the 3 most effective things a homeowner can do to keep an air conditioner energy efficient.

But there are also technical maintenance tasks that should be done at least once a year to maintain the air conditioner’s efficiency and extend its usable life span. These tasks need a professional cooling contractor’s special touch.

To find a good contractor, use these 10 tips for hiring a heating and cooling contractor from ENERGY STAR.

Advanced Air has been serving Fort Myers, Cape Coral, Naples and the surrounding areas for over 25 years. Contact us for your air conditioner maintenance needs.