Does the summertime heat have you looking for ways to stay cool? While you can’t always take a trip to the beach or jump into a pool to cool off, your air conditioning can help lower the temperature in your home and car.
Maximize the efficiency of your air conditioner with these easy tips.
Cooling Your Home
Whether you live in a large house or small apartment, the first hot day of the year could have you reaching for your air conditioning. Make sure you’re making the most of your air conditioner by following these four tips:
1. Get Your A/C Ready for Summer
You should take steps to get your air conditioner ready for the season before you start dropping the temperature in your home. Before turning your A/C on for the first time, go through and do some simple maintenance checks so you know it’s working properly.
Start by inspecting your outdoor unit as well as the indoor components. Look for signs of fraying or damage hoses or broken seals. Fix any damages you find so you’re not letting air escape before it reaches the vents.
You’ll also probably want to clean up your air conditioning. The ducts, vents and outdoor unit fins may have a buildup of dust and dirt. A cleaning cloth should help you clear your vents of dust, and you can use a vacuum to gently remove debris from the outdoor unit.
Consider scheduling a yearly maintenance check from a professional HVAC company. A professional technician should be able to diagnose any potential issues in your system and make sure it’s ready to use when the heat hits.
2. Use a Programmable Thermostat
For example, you can program the thermostat to start cooling the house when you’re on your way home from work. The house is cool when you get home, and you likely won’t be as tempted to drop the thermostat when you walk in the door.
There are plenty of basic programmable thermostats available, or you could install a smart thermostat. Many smart thermostats are also part of a larger set of smart home upgrades that you could use to help protect your home and make it more efficient.
3. Replace Dirty Air Filters
The air filter in your home’s air conditioner works as a barrier to stop unwanted particles and debris from clogging the system. The hardest part of cleaning your air filter is often simply locating it. Make sure to turn off your air conditioner so you don’t blow unfiltered air through your home.
Depending on your home’s HVAC system, your air filter may be located behind the return air vent. Larger homes might have multiple return vents with a filter for each. If your home uses the same duct system for both heating and cooling, the air filter is probably near the furnace blower.
Once you locate the filter, remove it and inspect it for dirt. Some air filters are reusable while others are made to be replaced. Reusable filters can often be cleaned with a vacuum sweeper. Single-use air filters need to be replaced with a new filter, which you can find at most home improvement stores.
4. Focus on Your Windows
The simplest way to make your air conditioning run more efficiently is to take a closer look at your windows. Homes with large windows allow a lot of solar energy to pass into the inside of the house. This makes everything inside a little warmer and causes your air conditioner to work harder. Window coverings can help reduce the amount of heat that comes in through the windows. Thick curtains or blinds protect the inside of your home from intense heat and work to keep the overall temperature down.
If you’re renting your place and reluctant to install curtain rods for blackout drapes, look for damage-free hardware that won’t leave big holes in the wall. Or, if you don’t want to give up your daylight, consider applying a tinted film to the windows. It’s an inexpensive and easy way to block the heat while saving your view and providing additional privacy.
Cooling Your Car
Your car’s air conditioner probably works just as hard as the system in your home. Like your home, there are things you can do to make your car’s air conditioning more effective.
1. Start Driving
It might be tempting to turn on your car and let it cool off before you get in on a hot day. Doing so, however, can actually make it take longer for your air conditioning to cool down the cabin.
A car’s air conditioning compressor runs faster as the engine turns faster. By getting in and driving immediately, you get the compressor running right away. Leaving your car to idle in the hot sun means the compressor has to work longer to cool down the interior.
On really hot days, you can roll down the back windows for about half a minute to help move hot air out of the cabin. As you drive, the hot air is pushed out of the back windows as cool air from the air conditioning moves in from the front.
2. Install Sunshades or Consider Tinting
Your car windows are designed to give you the most range of vision. This is ideal when you’re backing up in a crowded parking lot or trying to change lanes on a busy highway. When it comes to efficiency, however, lots of clear windows can be a problem.
A sunshade is a mesh window covering that attached to the windows in your vehicle and helps block solar rays from warming the interior. Installing a sunshade should keep the inside of your car slightly cooler than it would be without the shade.
Another option is to invest in window tinting. Tinted windows are darkened using a treatment that coats the interior glass and prevents all of the sun’s rays from coming into your car. Just be sure that you know the laws regarding window tinting in your state.
3. Look for Covered Parking
Try to find a shady, covered spot when it’s time to leave your vehicle. Use a garage or covered carport if you have one at your home. If you rely upon on-street parking or don’t have access to a garage, look for the shadiest spot available even though it may be a little farther away.
Follow these same rules when you’re out and about as well. Look to park in the shadiest spot you can find. Shade from trees or tall buildings should help limit the amount of sun that can heat the inside of your car.