As the cooler weather fast approaches, your need for cooling in your Chicagoland-area home will decrease just as quickly. However, fluctuating temperatures as the weather changes over the next few months can affect air conditioner efficiency, particularly if you constantly adjust settings. Using your air conditioner efficiently will result in a more comfortable environment and help your system to remain in good working condition when the hot season comes around again.

Closing Vents Wastes Energy

It might seem logical to close the vents in rooms that are not being used in order to save energy. However, closing off vents will increase pressure within in your HVAC system. This can result in air leaks via the ductwork, which means air that is needed to cool your home will escape instead. It also forces your air conditioner to work harder to cool the rooms throughout your home, and this translates to higher energy bills and reduced efficiency.

Let your air conditioner do its job even in unused spaces of your house. To improve your energy efficiency, consider increasing the thermostat temperature by a few degrees — to a level that is comfortable, and use ceiling fans or other fans to supplement cooling. You might not notice any difference in temperature thanks to the air movement, but you will certainly see the difference in energy savings.

Set Your Thermostat Correctly

There are recommended thermostat settings based on your daily routine. Your settings may vary based on your specific comfort levels, but they give you an idea of how to manage the thermostat for increased efficiency. Every degree you are able to increase the thermostat will allow you to realize savings, as less cooling, or a lower cooling output will be required from your air conditioner.

There are many thermostats today that are designed with increased efficiency in mind. Modern thermostats help you to be more efficient in several ways including:

  • Increased ability to manage humidity so that you rely less on the air conditioner for more comfort.
  • Some thermostats use sensors that react to activity in the home, and cycle on and off accordingly.
  • You can enable vacation programming so that energy is not wasted while you are away, and importantly too, so that you return home to comfortable temperatures.
  • Systems can provide reminders for those tasks we tend to easily forget such as filter changes.
  • Report generation capabilities allow you to assess AC usage over different periods in relation to energy expenditure so that adjustments can be made for energy conservation.

Thermostat Location Makes a Difference

Thermostats are ideally located on the ground floor, in an interior hallway, and away from heat, dust, and drafts. If your thermostat is in an area where it is exposed to these elements, it could give false readings, and cycle on and off unnecessarily. For example, if your thermostat is in a location where it receives direct sunlight, it will read the room temperature as hot, even though the heat is concentrated just in the area around the thermostat. The air conditioner will therefore cycle on in order to cool the house, and will do so more often than necessary. Areas that are already sufficiently cooled will continue to receive cool air. If your thermostat is in a location that will affect its ability to function properly, it is best to have it moved to an ideal location. Remove any nearby object such as lamps that could affect readings.

Air Filtration Matters

An efficient air conditioner reduces your energy bills and your carbon footprint. It will also improve your indoor air quality which is very important, and especially so, if there are persons in the home who have respiratory problems. Air conditioners work best if they are kept clean. Air filters in your HVAC system trap particles and prevent them from contaminating your indoor air or clogging the system. Be sure to replace or clean your filters in accordance with the manufacturer’s specifications.

Indoor air quality products such as air purifiers provide an extra boost to AC efficiency and even eliminate harmful viruses and bacteria. Older, less efficient air conditioners often have a negative impact on indoor air quality because they are likely to have damaged or worn parts that make them more prone to air and water leaks. Air leaks, especially in the ductwork, can cause contaminated air from outside to circulate throughout the home. Water leaks in the condensate drain, for example, can lead to the development of mold, resulting in mold spores moving through the system. It is a good idea to consider a modern system because of increased expenditure for repairs and parts, and the negative impact on poor air quality that come with older systems.

Repair Sources of Heat Gain

Conditioned air can escape, and unwanted air can enter your home via cracks or gaps, and this reduces energy efficiency. Doors and windows are the usual sources, and air leaks can be corrected by using weatherstripping and caulk. Leaks in the ductwork mean, ducts will need to be either sealed or replaced.

Other vulnerable areas include holes made for wiring and cables, vents for plumbing, the cavities created to conceal recessed lights, the rim joints between basements and walls, and the areas around crawlspaces, and chimneys. All of these places can let heat into your home during the summer or allow it to escape in the winter.

If there is not enough insulation, especially in your attic your air conditioner will have to work harder to cool your home as hot air in the attic is transferred to conditioned spaces via the ceiling. Ducts, too, are often insulated for increased efficiency.

Window Treatments

Any action that reduces the amount of heat in your home will help your air conditioner to perform more efficiently. Window treatments, such as curtains, blinds, shutters, screens, and shades will help to block heat that penetrates your home via windows or glass doors. Awnings are another effective option. Trees planted outside windows can also provide much-needed shade. All these options reduce heat transfer with the additional benefit of aesthetic appeal.

Energy-efficient windows can also help you to reduce energy costs. The windows you choose will be dependent on the design of your home, and the climate of the area. Energy-efficient windows include those that have a special glaze, coating, or tint that can filter out as much as 70% of the heat coming through windows.

Regular Maintenance is Key

It is quite easy to only think about your air conditioner in terms of its ability to provide sufficient heating or cooling at any given moment. Beyond that, many of us do not give our air conditioning systems much thought. Regular maintenance is key in ensuring your air conditioner performs efficiently and serves you effectively over its expected lifetime. During routine maintenance, your HVAC technician will examine all parts of both the indoor and outdoor units, to make sure everything is in good working order. Recommendations will be made regarding any component that needs to be repaired or replaced. Routine maintenance allows you to avoid costly or unexpected repairs, and enable your air conditioner to provide optimum levels of cooling while still allowing you to reduce energy bills. Regular maintenance should be scheduled at least once per year.

The more you know about the relationship between air condition use and care, and energy efficiency, the more changes you will be able to implement that will help you to lower your cooling costs. If you are in need of air conditioning services or repair, or would like to set up a maintenance agreement, call Roberts Heating & Air Conditioning at 847-272-5836. We can also provide advice regarding the most efficient systems for your home and budget.

Image provided by Shutterstock