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How to Get the Most Out of Your Air Conditioning System

When it comes to getting the most out of your investment, air conditioning systems are a lot like automobiles: they operate more efficiently and last longer when they get scheduled care and attention, and are operated properly.

Experts at the Trane Home Comfort Institute say there are dozens of ways to increase the life of your air conditioning system and decrease energy costs at the same time.

Here are five of the most effective:

1. Clean or replace the filter at least once a month.

  • When a central air conditioner circulates the air in your home, dust and dirt particles collect on the filter located in the indoor unit or ducts. Excessive buildup on the filter forces the system to run longer to maintain your set temperature. This can make utility bills rise.
  • Most residential systems have disposable filters. These should be checked every month and replaced when necessary with the same size filter as originally supplied. Permanent filters should be cleaned according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

2. Keep debris clear of the outdoor unit

  • Efficient operation of your central air conditioner requires a free flow of air over the coils in the outdoor unit. Anything that blocks this flow forces the unit to work harder.
  • Keeping it clear of leaves, dirt, newspapers and other debris helps it work at peak efficiency and holds down operating costs. Never stack anything against the side of the unit or drape anything over it. Keep trees, shrubs and other landscaping located near the unit trimmed back.

3. Service the system on a regular basis

  • Preventive maintenance is the least expensive kind. Keeping your system in top shape through regular checkups is the best way to ensure that it will keep working for you.
  • The best time to have your system checked is in early spring, before the cooling season starts. Many dealers offer a service contract that provides routine maintenance, including lubrication of motors, tightening of belts and checking of refrigerant level.

4. Leave your thermostat at one setting

  • If you want the optimum balance between comfort and cost, keep the temperature settings at 78°F for cooling. If you have a programmable thermostat, keep adjustments to a minimum once you’ve set it. Adjust it only when a new program is needed.
  • If you’re going to be away for a few days, don’t let the system run unnecessarily. Raise the thermostat to 85°F and simply reset it when you return.

5. Operate appliances during cooler parts of the day

  • Household appliances such as washers, dryers, ovens and ranges can generate heat and humidity inside the house. Using these appliances during the hottest times of the day, when your air conditioning system is working hardest, just adds to the burden.
  • By scheduling washing, drying, baking and cooking for mornings or evenings when it is cooler, you can remove this extra burden from your system and help keep operating costs down.

Of course, as Trane Home Comfort Institute experts point out, none of these steps will significantly decrease operating costs if your home is not properly insulated. This is the single most important step in saving energy since it keeps the cooled air in your home when you need it most.

They say infiltration of hot outside air is another of your cooling system’s worst enemies. So, find the places where air sneaks into your home and plug them up with caulk or weather-stripping. Closing these leaks will help greatly in maintaining your comfort, reducing energy use and extending the life of your air conditioning system.