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by Mitch Weigand
In 18 years of servicing and installing air conditioning systems, I have come up with two principles that are of utmost importance to my customers.
Rule 1: Buy the highest quality equipment you can.

Some A/C brands have an operational life of seven to ten years. Others, the best crafted and most reliable units, can be expected to provide you with cool air for up to 15 to 20 years. The higher quality units are also more efficient. Again, invest in the highest quality equipment you can afford. It will save you money in the long run in operational costs, repairs and early replacement.
Rule 2: Getting your A/C system checked in the spring is your best bet for a cool and comfortable summer.

Don’t wait until the summer to suddenly find out your system is leaking or can’t be repaired and needs to be replaced.

I’ve seen the following scenario too many times. It’s 10:00 p.m on a hot July night. The air temperature outside is 93 degrees, and the humidity is 95 percent, which makes 93 degrees feel closer to 105. The A/C unit suddenly breaks down. The house is fast becoming an oven, and you’re sweltering inside waiting for the A/C man to respond to your emergency call. All this hardship could have been averted by preventative maintenance. A competent technician could have detected any possible errors ahead of time and the appropriate repairs or recommendations could have been made. Do this in the spring when your comfort and sanity don’t depend on an operational A/C system. Service checks are the secret to air-conditioning happiness.

Tip 1: Filters

Filters can be your air conditioner’s best friend or worst enemy. Imagine: a relatively inexpensive filter can make or break the most expensive A/C system. Amazing, isn’t it?

An A/C system is dependent upon an unimpeded flow of air to do its job: that of cooling your home. A new filter will clean your air of dirt and pollutants before it reaches the A/C units in your attic where the air is cooled. A dirty filter, on the other hand, restricts or blocks air flow. Here’s the rule to keep in mind: the ability of your system to produce cool air is decreased to the degree that airflow is impeded.

Dirty filters have other consequences, all bad. Lack of airflow stresses your compressor in the outside unit. The number one reason for premature failure of compressors is a dirty filter. I recommend that you use pleated filters, which are now the industry standard.

The moral of the story is this: change your filter once a month during the summer.
Tip 2: The Thermostat

Your thermostat regulates the temperature in your home.

If you shut your A/C system off when you leave home during the day, it costs more and takes longer to cool when you return in the evening. The answer is to keep your A/C on, but at what temperature?

I recommend that you leave your A/C on no higher than 5 degrees above your normal operating temperature when you’re home. For example, if your comfort level is 75 degrees you should set your away temperature no higher than 80 degrees. This ensures that the humidity levels within your home do not rise to a level where mold or mildew could occur.

A central air conditioning system is the largest single consumer of energy in your home. However, the reason you own an A/C system is to stay cool. It may not make sense to compromise your comfort to save a few dollars. If you are having “cool vs. dollar” issues, you could consider upgrading to one of the high-efficiency units that are available today.

So, use your thermostat wisely!
Tip 3: Preparation for Thunderstorms and Hurricanes

It’s officially hurricane season, and we frequently experience some pretty intense thunderstorms at this time of year. So how can you protect one of your home’s most valuable assets? When there’s electricity in the air, turn your A/C off.

When you hear thunder from an approaching storm, turn your A/C off. There’s no need to go to the breaker box to do this; just turn it off using the thermostat. This simple step helps protect your A/C system from devastating power surges. Nearly 90 percent of all electrical related damage occurs when your A/C is left on during thunderstorms and hurricanes. You may suffer a bit from the increased heat and humidity but you’ll prevent thousands of dollars in preventable repairs.

If a power outage occurs during the storm, wait 20 minutes after power is restored to then turn your air conditioner back on. Unstable or “dirty” power can occur at this time.

Another concern during a hurricane is flooding. While flooding can harm your outside unit when it’s off, serious damage virtually is guaranteed if it’s on. Water and electricity just don’t mix.

Once the thunderstorm or hurricane is over and electrical power has been properly restored, clear all leaves and limbs that have gathered around your air conditioner, and use a garden hose to remove accumulated debris from its fins. These simple steps will help you A/C system survive the aftermath of Mother Nature’s fury.

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