By: Keith Nordstrom, AJ Heating & Air, Wilson Ratliff and Erin Morgan, Local Energy Alliance Program (LEAP)
Energy-waste and HVAC-related damage to your home can put a damper on summer relaxation. With a little attention to your HVAC maintenance, you can keep your home comfortable and even save money on your utility bills while you beat the heat. As high temperatures and high humidity head toward us, get the most out of your AC with these 5 tips from the pros themselves.
- Change your system’s air filter regularly (generally anywhere from once per month to once every three months, depending on your model) to help extend the life of your HVAC system. This allows your equipment to run more efficiently and will improve your indoor air quality.
- Resist the temptation to block the vents in unused rooms. Although you may want to try this in an effort to not waste energy, blocking even one HVAC vent can actually cause problems for your system. In many cases, the existing supply and return vents are already undersized, and blocking (deliberately or with furniture) or closing vents to unused rooms can unbalance the HVAC system, causing it to ice up in the summer or shut itself down in the winter. Try to maintain at least 10 inches of clearance around the vents to allow for adequate airflow and circulation. For hard to reach or poorly designed supplies, register deflectors can be placed over them to help direct the air to where you need it.
- Set your thermostat to 78 degrees to save up to 10% on cooling costs. By decreasing the difference between the outside temperature and the temperature inside your home, you’ll be able to lower the workload for your A/C unit. Savings on your energy bill + fewer A/C repairs = a win-win in our book!
- Keep the coils clean. Outdoor HVAC units naturally absorb a lot of dust, dirt, and debris. Keeping the coils clean will improve your system’s ability to reject heat from inside efficiently.
- If you have taken care of all of your regular maintenance, let’s take this to the next level and get a bit technical with ΔT. Checking your ΔT (Delta T, the difference in temperature between the air before and after the HVAC system – i.e. the air going into the unit versus the air coming out of it) can help you determine if you need to hire a professional to come to take a look at your system. For cooling systems, a good rule of thumb is between a 16- and 22-degree difference. The ideal ΔT for heating systems varies by the system you have, so here’s where it gets a little tricky: you will need to check the manufacturer’s plate on the furnace to see the temperature rise minimum and maximum. It’s usually a 30- to 40-degree difference for furnaces, but will be less for heat pump systems while they’re operating in heat-pump mode.
As always, be sure to monitor your indoor humidity levels while you implement these steps. You can easily test your home’s humidity level with a hygrometer or indoor humidity monitor, which can be picked up at most drug stores. Indoor humidity levels are best kept lower than 50% in the summer, so if your levels seem high, consider a dehumidifier with an automatic drain to keep the ambient relative humidity in the proper range. With these tips in mind, summer just got a little bit cooler.