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Your Home Environment Resource - University of Nebraska Cooperative Extension in Lancaster County

Household Hints & HELP!

Choose Energy-Efficient Air Conditioning
submitted by Lorene Bartos, Extension Educator

This article appeared in the July 28, Lincoln Journal Star Newspaper.

Trying to keep the temperature, humidity level and energy costs down? An important factor in lowering costs and efficient operation is an air-conditioning system that is properly sized, installed, maintained and operated, and is selected with energy and efficiency in mind.

Common problems include improper selection and operation, faculty installation and inadequate or poor servicing and maintenance.

For economical operation, set your air conditioner at a higher temperature when away from home. Closing registers in unused rooms may not save energy because central air conditioners are planned to cool the total living space. Programmable thermostats allow setting the time when the air conditioner will turn on or perform at cooler and hotter temperatures.

Close storms, outside doors, shades and shutters when operating an air conditioner. Provide shade on the outside and inside of windows – especially those on the east and west sides. Proper landscaping can make a significant difference in summer cooling.

Reduce moisture sources inside the house such as excessive showers. Use range and bathroom vents to exhaust moisture when cooking or showering. Always vent dryers outside. Fix leaks and stop any water or moisture from entering the home through cracks in walls and along foundations.

Leaky ducts waste energy when cool air escapes from the supply ducts or hot attic air leaks into return ducts. In an average central air-conditioning system, 10 to 30 percent of the conditioned air may escape through the ducts into places not intended to cool such as the attic, basement or exterior walls. A professional service technician or weatherization professional can detect and correct duct leaks. Ducts can be sealed with duct “mastic.” Older duct tape can fail. Sealing with duct tape is not satisfactory because duct tapes can fail soon after installation. If duct tape is used, select foil-backed tape.

Be sure supply or return air ducts and registers are not blocked. Blocked ducts can result in poor air-conditioning performance.

Sometimes the amount of refrigerant in the system does not match the manufacturer's specifications and hampers the unit's performance and efficiency. When the unit is serviced, ask them to check the manufacturer's specifications. If a unit is low on refrigerant, it may leak or was undercharged at installation. The refrigerant level should match the manufacturer's specifications and not be over- or undercharged.

Compressors or fans are more likely to fail prematurely if filters and air-conditioning coils are allowed to become dirty. If the system is oversized for the home, the compressor and fan controls can wear out because the air conditioner turns on and off more frequently. A larger-than-needed unit cycles off and on frequently, thus reducing its efficiency and resulting in temperature, humidity and comfort fluctuations.

Check your air conditioner and keep it maintained for best service. Remember to set the temperature higher when no one is home. Conserving energy helps the budget and the environment.

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