Stay energy efficient with air-conditioner maintenance

Published On: Jul 09 2012 01:30:04 PM CDT   Updated On: Jul 10 2012 05:28:20 AM CDT
HOUSTON -

A cooling system makes up 50 percent of household energy costs, so any improvements when maintaining the system, especially going more energy efficient, are bound to save you some cash.

Changing the filter on your air conditioner, especially during the summer when there is more dust and allergens in the air, is one of the simplest things you can do.

"Remember to check it every month when you pay your utility bill. It's something that anyone can do themselves and it can save you up to 15 percent on your energy bills," said Angie Hicks from the service referral website, Angie's List.

Hicks told Local 2 that everyone should be getting a yearly tune-up on their A/C units.

"For a typical tune-up on your air conditioner, it's probably going to cost around $70 to $100. Also, keep in mind, many companies do have maintenance plans that offer it at a little lower price," Hicks said.

Spotting problems early, like more humidity in the house or the unit kicking on more often, are a good reason to call someone in.

"If the outdoor coils are dirty. If the cooling capacity is not up to par or they are not getting air flow out, things like that can show that the air conditioner needs to be tuned-up," said Darren Scaggs, an A/C service technician.

Hicks said some of the Angie's List most highly rated service specialists say the majority of their emergency repair calls can be traced back to poor maintenance. The repair people say each year, an air conditioner goes without maintenance, it will lose about 5 percent of its overall efficiency.

"It is true, if the system is not operating the way it's supposed to and has dirty coils, over-heated motors, or lacks refrigerant, all of it affects that system's efficiency. So as it goes through the year, it can lose efficiency if it's not tuned-up properly," Scaggs said.

Some companies hire maintenance technicians to do their tune-ups as an entry level position. So make sure the service people have certification that shows they have met the minimum standards for knowledge of their trade.

A typical service call should be around $70 to $100. However, be wary of companies offer significantly lower prices. Be sure, even in emergencies, to take the time to call around and get multiple estimates.

When it comes to saving money and your air conditioner, it does not just have to be during repair time.  Every degree you set your thermostat below 78 degrees increases your energy consumption by about 8 percent. If your monthly electric bill is about $100, you'll save $8 a month with each degree you go above 78.

ENERGY EFFICIENCY TIPS:

Get Checkups: Each central air conditioning unit should be inspected, cleaned and tuned by a professional before the summer season. Ask about annual maintenance plans. More HVACs are offering these plans that will insure visits twice per calendar year.

Items checked during a tune-up may include:

· Safety controls are inspected.

· Refrigerant levels to ensure there are no Freon leaks.

· Compressor and electrical components are cleaned and checked for proper operation and life expectancy.

· Filters checked and changed, if necessary.

· Outdoor coil is cleaned.

· Check temperature and proper air flow.

· Calibrate thermostats.

Keep the filter clean: Clean and replace the air conditioner filter frequently. Check the filter once a month. This is especially important during the summer when dust and allergens circulate. If the filter becomes clogged, your system will have to work harder to supply the same amount of cool air. Check with your provider on the right type of filters to use with your system.

Made in the shade: Air conditioners with proper shading can be more efficient. Air in a shaded space is cooler than the surrounding air, meaning the A/C will have an easier time cooling the air, but keep plants, shrubs, and other landscaping about two to four feet away from your outdoor unit to ensure adequate airflow.

Dial for dollars: Remember that each degree you dial below 78 increases your energy consumption by about 8 percent. If your monthly electric bill is about $100, you'll save $8 a month with each degree you can stand above 78.

Set and go: If it is hard to remember to tweak your thermostat before you leave for work, consider investing in a programmable thermostat or a timer for your window unit.

Time to replace? If your unit is more than 10 years old and you have substantial repair costs, it is probably time to consider a replacing your unit with a new, energy-efficient model. When replacing your A/C, look for a properly sized unit. If you install a unit that is too large, it will cycle on and off, reducing the efficiency of the system.