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How to Make Your Air Conditioner More Effective and Efficient When Temperatures Soar

Cut down on your energy bill and have a cooler home. It’s a win-win.

As temperatures across the country continue to rise—along with the humidity and our electricity bills—our air conditioners are getting a workout. But if your home has central air, there are a few things you can do to get the most out of your unit, according to Dave Radziej from the Plumbing, Heating and Cooling Contractors Association. Here’s what to do.

Make sure the fan is on

Before doing anything else, Radziej says you should check your thermostat to make sure the blower fan is on, because it helps circulate cool air, giving your AC unit a bit of a break. “Just think about it, it’s constantly circulating air from the basement up to the second floor and back done. It’s the most efficient way to use it.”

Check your vents

Next, check your air vents to make sure they’re pumping air. You can do this by holding a tissue up to each intake and return vent.

Close any vents in the basement

In many cases, you don’t need air condition to keep your basement cool, Radziej says, so close any vents down there. “That will give you more air pressure to push up to the upper floors,” he adds.

Adjust the dampers

While you’re at it, Radziej recommends adjusting the dampers in the basement to help re-direct cool air upstairs. “If you’re not getting enough air upstairs, you can adjust these dampers,” he explains. “That will push air to different areas of your house.”

Check your AC’s filters

On the one hand, if your AC unit’s filter is full of gunk, that means it’s doing its job. But leaving it like that will force it to work harder to keep your place cool. “If you let that filter get clogged, it will be like wrapping that coil with a blanket and the air isn’t going to get through there to cool down,” Radziej explains. “So you’re going to use more energy, more electricity than you need to.”

Clean your outdoor unit

Not only should you regularly clean your filter, Radziej says that you also need to clean your outdoor AC unit. That’s because as it’s pulling in air to cool, plenty of debris and dirt are coming along for the ride—something else that will make it have to work harder and use more energy.

He recommends cleaning outdoor units by first turning their power off, and then spraying them with a hose. “You’ve got to do this a couple of times a year,” he says. “Just spray it out, clean it all out as much as you can all the way around.”

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