Maximizing Your Air Conditioner’s Effectiveness

As climate change continues to make an impact worldwide, summers in Alberta are getting hotter and lingering longer. While July is historically the hottest month of the year, August and September promise a few more warm and sunny summer months.

Hopefully, your air conditioner has been keeping you comfortably cool this summer. But if your air conditioner has been working hard all summer long, chances are you’re looking for a way to start scaling back on your power bills without turning off your air conditioner entirely.

Read on to learn more about getting the most out of your air conditioner and staying cool at home as the weather slowly tilts towards fall.

1. Employ Proper Maintenance

Long before you anticipate turning on your air conditioner for the summer, it’s a good idea to call an air conditioning technician for some pre-summer maintenance. The technician can make sure everything is in proper working order before you start relying on your air conditioner to ensure maximum comfort in your home.

However, now that your air conditioner has been hard at work for several months, it’s important to again employ proper maintenance to make sure you’re still getting the most out of your cooling system. You should always call if you suspect your air conditioner might not be working as well as it should, but calling your air conditioning technician for a midsummer check-up should also occupy an important position on your August to-do list.

You should visually inspect your air conditioner yourself every few weeks to make sure everything is in working order. Do the following things when inspecting your air conditioner:

  • Clean the area around your air conditioner. Keep the area free from outdoor debris such as leaves or grass. Clip foliage back so the area around your air conditioner is clear.
  • Check your air filter at least once a month and call a technician to change it when needed. A dirty air filter can impair your air conditioner’s function and slow down its efficiency.
  • Make sure your air conditioner is free of leaks. Some leaks can be hard to see, so contact a technician who can use a leak detector if you’re worried any leaks may have developed.

2. Adjust Your Thermostat

Setting the thermostat as low as possible all summer long can be tempting. However, it’s also very energy inefficient, and forces your air conditioner to work hard to fight the extreme summer heat. As a general rule, try setting the thermostat around 25-26°C. As the temperature lowers degree by degree throughout the coming months, set your thermostat slightly higher: the smaller the difference between the indoor and outdoor temperature, the lower your energy bill will be.

If you want to spend less but still enjoy a cooler room, try using overhead fans in tandem with the air conditioner. With your overhead fan on, you can set the air conditioner to a higher temperature but still enjoy the effects of that cool air circulating around the room. The same does not apply for kitchen and bathroom fans—these usually bring warmer, moister air into your home, which decreases your air conditioner’s efficiency.

3. Shade Your Windows and Air Conditioner

During the winter, sunlight entering your windows and heating your home might be a welcome natural occurrence. However, in the summer, this sunlight forces your air conditioner to work harder to fight the heat. You can combat the sun’s tendency to warm your home by increasing the shade around your windows.

Many homeowners do this by installing awnings, but the most effective way is to plant trees or shrubs near some of your home’s windows to naturally cast more shade. To get the most use value out of a shade tree, you should plant trees that will shade east-facing walls in the morning and west-facing walls in the evening. Plant taller trees further away from the house and smaller trees to the northeast and northwest of your home.

In contrast, if you plant a shade tree in the south, southeast, or southwest of your home, the tree will only shade your home if it is tall enough to reach over the roof. Planting taller trees in this area could backfire over the winter, when they might prevent the more desirable winter sunlight from entering your home.

While exterior window shading is more effective, interior shading, such as drawing your curtains or blinds during the day, can help as well.

Some homeowners with exterior air conditioning units also shade the unit itself with trees. An outdoor unit working in the sun uses as much as 10% more electricity than one working in the shade. If you take this route, make sure to keep the air conditioning unit clear of falling leaves or other natural debris; the tree should keep the unit cool without inhibiting its function.

Staying Cool All Summer Long

Even as summer gradually descends into fall, it’s important to keep your air conditioner in working condition until the very end. Proper maintenance, temperature, and shade can ensure your air conditioner’s efficiency throughout August and September. Take these steps today to save money on your energy bill and store up additional cash for the cold winter ahead.

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