With the heat of summer, you can already expect your electric bill to be higher than usual. But the last thing you want is to be surprised by a bill that's far higher than the norm. There are many things that can cause your air conditioner to work overtime and hike up your electric use, so here are three things you can do to keep your AC running strong and avoid any unpleasant surprises.
Get Your Refrigerant Levels Checked
Your air conditioner's refrigerant works by essentially carrying the hot air out of your home and blowing cool air in. The refrigerant absorbs heat from inside, releases the heat outside, and subsequently cools, and the resulting cold air comes through your vents. If your refrigerant is running low, the air coming through your vents won't be as cold. This might not be immediately noticeable, but it means that your air conditioner will have to run for longer periods of time to cool your house.
If you get annual maintenance done on your condenser, most technicians will check your refrigerant levels as part of that maintenance. If you don't have your AC system regularly checked, have it examined before you start using your air conditioner constantly.
While refrigerant doesn't "run out" because it runs in a closed system, leaks and the usual wear and tear can gradually deplete your refrigerant supply. If it's been a few years, have a technician check it out for you.
Have All Old Parts Checked, Repaired, or Replaced
Standard maintenance usually involves cleaning your condenser and making sure your refrigerant levels are where they should be, but as your air conditioning system gets older, you should start to pay more attention to all the parts that keep it running. This includes things like the motor, blades, coils, compressor, and capacitors. As these parts start to get older, wear and tear will make them run less efficiently, if not cause your AC to not turn on at all. Just like with your refrigerant, if one of these parts isn't working properly, your condenser will have to run much longer to keep your house cool. All that extra run time quickly adds up on your electric bill.
You don't necessarily have to add inspection of these parts to your list of annual maintenance, but get them looked at every few years, and keep an eye out for any strange behaviors or sounds in the meantime. If you hear humming or clicking sounds that you didn't hear before, or if you notice the air coming from your vents starting to feel lukewarm rather than cool, these are early signs that some component is failing. This is especially true if a part like the motor or capacitor has failed; power will flow to your condenser, but your condenser won't turn on, meaning you're using electricity on a system that's receiving power but doing no cooling whatsoever.
Have Your Ductwork Inspected
The good news is that having your ductwork inspected isn't something you need to do very often. The not-so-good news is that problems in your ductwork, like gaps or loose parts, can cause a lot of wasted energy by letting cool air escape before it enters your house.
There are a few scenarios in which you might want to get your ducts looked at:
- If you've purchased a house and don't know the state of the ductwork
- If you've had a recent infestation of pests that could have potentially caused damage
- If you hear any strange sounds like rattling or banging coming from the ductwork
- If the air coming through your vents feels weak or lacking in pressure
An inspection of old ductwork may not only lead to patching up holes and gaps that are letting cold air escape, but it can also help you find out if you need to have your ducts cleaned or repaired.
If you catch potential issues early enough in the season or can afford to wait, get these repairs and maintenance done during the winter months when demand for service is lower; this way, you'll not only save money with a properly working air conditioner, but you'll save on the price of service as well. To learn more, talk to companies like Universal Refrigeration.