Want to spend two or three 110-degree days without any air-conditioning at your home? That’s what can happen if the only time you call for service on your AC system is when it acts up.
This summer, prevent a breakdown during the blistering heat by contacting a service tech – one who’s licensed, insured, bonded and recommended by someone you trust – to give your unit a once-over and fix any little problems that are waiting to grow into something more expensive, inconvenient and uncomfortable.
Here are a few other ways you can keep your AC humming.
1. Don’t run the fan in the “on” position during the monsoon.
A thermostat has two settings: “on” and “automatic.” In the “on” position, the fan will run constantly all day and night. On “auto,” the indoor blower will come on only when the compressor comes on.
During the rainy season, the air-conditioner removes humidity from your indoor air. If you leave the fan turned on when the compressor turns off, it will blow that humidity back into the house.
After the monsoon, you can run your fan all you want. But the rainy season triples our humidity, which can make your indoor air downright uncomfortable.
2. Change the AC filter every month.
Even if the manufacturer’s instructions say you can change it once a season, do it every 30 days. Most places don’t have the heat and dust that we have in Arizona. Our filters clog quickly with dust, hair and debris. Once that happens, air can’t flow freely through the filter to the coil. If air to the coil is restricted, it won’t transfer heat or deal with humidity. That not only makes the house uncomfortable, it can damage the air-conditioning system and cost you plenty.
A tip: Don’t use a $1 fiberglass filter. Choose a 1-inch pleated filter for about $4. And stay away from the $17-$25 pleated filter. Sure, the expensive filters catch just about every speck of dust that tries to pass through to the coil, but they provide so much resistance that even air can’t get through. That can starve your unit for air.
3. Don’t crank the thermostat up when you’re leaving the house for the day.
It’s true that the house doesn’t need to be as cool when nobody’s in it. But when a house gets too warm, it heats up not only the air, but the furniture, carpet and everything in the house. When you return home after work – at one of the hottest times of the day – and dip the temperature way down to get comfortable, the AC has to cool the air, the furniture, the rugs and everything else. That’s going to cost more than the money you saved by turning the dial up. Best bet: Install a programmable thermostat that consistently fluctuates the temperature every day by only two or three degrees.
4. Never run your evaporative cooler on the same day as you run your air-conditioner.
The AC dehumidifies your indoor air, and the evap cooler adds humidity. So they’re natural-born enemies. Humidity reduces the effectiveness of your AC by as much as 20 percent.
Most people who have evap coolers like to run them in the morning when it’s a little cooler outdoors, and then switch to the AC when it heats up later in the day. If you do that, you’ll waste energy.
5. Watch your secondary drain.
If you have a split-system AC (part of the unit is in the attic and part is outside on the ground), you probably have two drains coming out of the house: one near the ground and one up on the wall. The one on the wall is the secondary drain and the only time water comes out of it is if the primary drain – the one on the ground – is clogged. This is an emergency. Call your AC tech to clean out that drain.
6. Notice any changes in the way your system sounds, if it vibrates or how much air it pushes out.
You live with that unit, so you know it better than anybody. When you see, feel or hear changes, something’s wrong. Call your service tech while the problem is new and fixable.
7. If you have your unit repaired, ask the tech to leave you any old parts that he replaces.
You’re more likely to avoid falling victim to a common scam by the few unscrupulous contractors who will tell you that your unit or some of its parts have failed when they haven’t.
Some air-conditioning companies require their techs to meet quotas by selling a certain amount of replacement parts whether the customers need them or not. Others pay techs a commission on replacement parts, which can tempt them to lie to homeowners about the condition of their systems.
Your best bet: Do your homework before inviting an AC tech into your home. Find out how long the company has been in business in Arizona and whether the tech has a license from the Arizona Registrar of Contractors. Ask to see proof of insurance and bonding. And always go with someone who comes highly recommended by someone you trust.
8. Find out how old your system is.
Most last for around 15 years. If yours is getting up there in years, plan to replace it.
A qualified service tech can evaluate the system and give you an idea of how much longer it has. If you decide to hang onto it until it dies, be prepared by choosing and consulting with a trusted AC company and selecting your replacement unit ahead of time.
That way, you won’t have to make these expensive decisions during an emergency in the middle of the summer – and you’re likely to get better equipment, a better price and a better installation job.