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Air Conditioning System "Do's"

Millions of us daily depend on our air conditioning systems to keep us cool in the heat of the summer season. Day and night we want to know we can retreat to the inside of our homes to escape from sweltering and uncomfortable temps.


The science of air cooled air conditioning is somewhat hard to grasp for many. Involving a mechanical cycle of interaction between low temperature, low pressure then high temperature, high pressure with refrigerant in a gaseous state then liquid state, eventually enabling our homes to be the comfort level we desire. (For those of you wanting a more technical explanation, visit this link.)

While it may not be important you fully comprehend the process, there are actions you can take to preserve and facilitate the process.  Below are simple, routine tasks that will keep your system in tip-top condition, as well as extend the life of your air conditioning components.

  • Air Filters must be clean. Check every 30-60 days, more frequently if you have animals in the home.
  • Condensing Unit at the exterior must be free of time-accumulated debris, and spaced a minimum of 2 feet from interfering vegetation. Maintain a minimum 1 foot free space completely around the exterior condensing unit, as well at 4 feet clearance above. Unit should not be directly under an eave without a gutter that would allow runoff onto the appliance.
  • Keep the black foam insulation intact around the large tubing line at the exterior compressor. Homeowners with pets take extra precaution, as animals have been known to paw and chew the insulation.
  • Do not turn the thermostat OFF and ON as you leave and arrive back home.  This does not save energy and is strenuous on the system. It can take several hours to completely re-cool the house if you've been gone for a long time. It is okay to push up the thermostat temp 5-10 degrees, just not OFF.
  • Some homeowners set the thermostat FAN setting to ON, rather than AUTO. This runs the blower nonstop and keeps air moving throughout the house constantly. The cooling system will still cycle as called upon and the running blower would not be labeled an energy waster. Subsequently, you may be able to raise your thermostat temperature setting a degree or two and still feel comfortable.
  • A digital thermometer will allow you to check the temperature drop between return and supply air. Measure the air going to be processed, then measure the air coming from the suppy ducts. The difference should be between 15-22F degrees. Outside of this parameter may mean lack of airflow (clogged filter) or low refrigerant (leak).
  • Manufacturers recommend you have your air conditioning system serviced annually by a professional, certified technician. This requirement is usually necessary to protect any warranty in effect. If no problems are found, you'll usually pay less than a $100.
  • Cover your unit at the end of the cooling season, uncovering at the start of next year's warm season. Covering a unit keeps out ice and unwanted debris. Don't forget to disable the disconnect at the breaker box closest to the unit.

Again, while it's not important to remember why air conditioners do not cool air, but rather remove warm air, it is important to know how you can ensure your unit is performing as expected.

Stay cool!