6 Air Conditioner Facts You Didn’t Know

Here’s what you need to know about keeping your air conditioner working — and keeping the costs down.

There’s nothing quite like the feeling of stepping into a cool home after a hot summer day. For that, you have your air conditioning system to thank.

To make sure your AC keeps getting the job done, you should learn a bit about your own system, perform routine maintenance, and determine the most efficient settings.

These seven air conditioner facts might surprise you — and they’ll certainly help you get to know your system so it works better for you all summer long.

1. People have been trying to stay cool for centuries.

During the 3rd century, the Roman Emperor Elagabalus had 1,000 slaves build a huge pile of snow (carried down from the top of the mountains via donkeys) in his garden to stay cool. But things have improved since then, thanks to a New York engineer named Willis Carrier, who invented the modern air conditioner in 1902. The device was first implemented in commercial spaces like stores and offices, but gradually caught on in homes as well, particularly during the economic boom of the 1950s. Nowadays, about 87 percent of American homes have an AC system, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

2. The average home spends about $2,000 a year on energy.

A whopping 54 percent of home energy costs come from the HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) system. And energy bills can as much as triple during the summer, says David Kenyon, training manager at Sears Home Improvement.

To lower costs in the long run, he advises investing in a quality system up front, rather than spending more money running a cheap AC. “It ends up being far more trouble to keep replacing them,” he says.

3. Temperature isn’t a consistent measure.

An outdoor temp of 70ºF is pretty ideal — but there’s probably some humidity that comes with that. Since an air conditioner’s job is to remove humidity, it’s possible you’ll actually prefer 75ºF in your home. The only way to figure out the best temp for you is to live in it for a while.

4. You should replace your AC filter one to two times per season, and the whole system every 10 to 15 years.

Indoor air can actually be more polluted than outdoor air, since things like oils and gases don’t really have anywhere to escape. Depending on how many pollutants you have in your house, your AC filters can get dirty fast. Replace them as often as necessary, but once or twice a season is a good rule of thumb. Replacing a dirty filter can also lower your system’s energy consumption by 5% to 15%.

Keep an eye on your system’s coils, which should be checked every year and cleaned as necessary. Ducts should also be cleaned every three to five years.

“Most manufacturers require annual maintenance — including refrigerant pressure checks, lubrication, diagnostics, as well as cleaning inside and out of the condenser and evaporator coil — by a qualified technician,” Kenyon says.

5. Size matters.

“A lot of people have the misconception that bigger is better,” Kenyon says. “But too big an AC system will increase the energy bill, and it won’t remove humidity the way it’s supposed to. And then too small is similar — it doesn’t turn on and off enough; it runs too much. And it also runs up the energy bill.” Take the time when you’re purchasing an AC system to ensure it’s the right size via a Manual J-approved load calculation to save a lot of grief down the line.

6. Technology can save you money on your bill — and reduce energy consumption.

Most programmable thermostats have at least four daily settings: when you wake up, when you leave for the day, when you come home and when you go to sleep. Some newer systems even come with Wi-Fi thermostats, which you can program via an app on your smartphone. “A programmable or Wi-Fi thermostat can help reduce energy consumption up to 15%, according to the U.S. Department of Energy,” he says.

Learn something new about your hard-working AC? If you still aren’t sure if you need to replace, repair or just maintain your cooling unit, Sears Home Services has you covered. Schedule an appointment online today.

Get a free in-home consultation

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