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Old 07-23-2011, 09:09 AM  
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Simple AC tips to help keep your cool this summer

Hey CP peeps, I'm willing to bet some of you have noticed it's freaking hot outside. And since I've spent the last year going to school for HVAC, I thought I'd share some things I've learned about air conditioning systems. If you don't think yours is operating properly, here are some simple things you can check out on your own.

First off, check your outside unit. On it you will find two copper tubes coming from the house and into the unit. Touch them both.

The larger one (low side), should be insulated and cold to the touch, similar to a can of beer coming out of the fridge. If it's warm, or frosted, it likely means that your refrigerant level is off. Call a professional.

The smaller one (high side) should be warm, but not uncomfortable to the touch. If it's hot enough that you can't leave your fingers on it, it very likely means that your condensing coil is dirty, and it can't properly release the heat that the system is trying to remove from your home, and it's not going to run efficiently ($$$$). It can also make the compressor run hotter than normal, thereby shortening its life (more $$$$).

If your coil is as dirty as the one pictured here



you can make a significant improvement in performance simply by shutting the system down and thoroughly hosing it off, but the most effective way to clean one is from the inside with a high-pressure spray tip since dirt, cotton from cottonwood trees and even lawn clippings can get embedded into the coil. This is also something that can be done yourself, but if you're not comfortable opening up the unit, call a pro to have it cleaned. Again, let me emphasize that the system needs to be SHUT OFF while doing this. The condenser should be cleaned at least once a year, and maybe more depending on the conditions.

Lastly, a few things on airflow, which is key to keeping your home cool.

Check the furnace filter. Does it look more like a throw rug than the filter you stuck in there six months ago? Time to change it out. In the summertime, I recommend the cheap, flimsy ones. While that super duper pleated hypo-allergenic $25 one that Paul Harvey recommended may do a better job of cleaning your air, it's only because it's letting less air through it. There are better ways to clean your air other than choking off your airflow.

Is your humidifier bypass (if equipped with one) closed? Check for a 6" round duct going into your humidifier. There should be a handle somewhere on it, or on the humidifier itself, and it should be marked "summer/winter" or "high/low". Turn it to the summer/low position, or if it's not marked, the handle should be perpendicular to the airflow. Having this open when the AC is running can kill your efficiency by as much as 25% on its own.

You also want to keep all your supply/return vents clear, and open. Your system is designed to move a certain amount of air, and closing off a bunch of vents isn't necessarily going to help keep the other rooms any cooler. If you notice significant differences in temperatures from room to room, try turning the thermostat to "Fan On". On that setting, the AC will still cycle normally as needed to maintain the desired temperature, but the fan will run continuously which may help keep all rooms a more consistent temperature.

Hopefully these suggestions help some of you, I know they've made a difference in my house.
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Old 07-23-2011, 09:17 AM   #2
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I don't have an air conditioner, but I will apply these same principles to my room fans. Thanks!
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Old 07-23-2011, 09:19 AM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rain Man View Post
I don't have an air conditioner, but I will apply these same principles to my room fans. Thanks!
Oh yeah, that reminds me. Another simple tip is to move to a cooler, drier climate.
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Old 07-23-2011, 09:20 AM   #4
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Or buy 7 window units like Saylors mom did.
I cant even imagine,what it must cost to try & cool that old house.
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Old 07-23-2011, 09:20 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rain Man View Post
I don't have an air conditioner, but I will apply these same principles to my room fans. Thanks!


I wouldn't think that shutting of the supply vents to unused rooms would cause any issues. I would think that the volume of air that the fan pushes is what it is, and that closing off supply vents would simply allow that air to be pushed to the vents that are open.

Am I wrong?
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Old 07-23-2011, 09:21 AM   #6
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Originally Posted by Bugeater View Post
Oh yeah, that reminds me. Another simple tip is to move to a cooler, drier climate.
It'll get to the high 90s here in Denver today, but yeah, it's at 10% humidity.
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Old 07-23-2011, 09:27 AM   #7
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Originally Posted by Donger View Post


I wouldn't think that shutting of the supply vents to unused rooms would cause any issues. I would think that the volume of air that the fan pushes is what it is, and that closing off supply vents would simply allow that air to be pushed to the vents that are open.

Am I wrong?
That's what I always thought as well, but I was told by several people who are a hell of a lot smarter than me that it's not the case.
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Old 07-23-2011, 09:28 AM   #8
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great thread and thank you for the tips!
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Old 07-23-2011, 09:34 AM   #9
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That's what I always thought as well, but I was told by several people who are a hell of a lot smarter than me that it's not the case.
That's surprising.
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Old 07-23-2011, 09:39 AM   #10
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What if you have 2 a/c units, one for upstairs and one for downstairs? I've heard all kinds of different advice on running one or both. Some say set both to same temp always; some say run only upstairs and let the cooler air drop to downstairs; and some say run the downstairs unit when you're downstairs and upstairs unit when you're upstairs.
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Old 07-23-2011, 09:40 AM   #11
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great thread and thank you for the tips!
YOU'RE WELCOME, champ!
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Old 07-23-2011, 09:40 AM   #12
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That's surprising.
Yes, it is. The way it was explained to me is your fan can only move x amount of air through whatever size your duct is, and the only way to move more air is with a more powerful fan, or a larger duct.
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Old 07-23-2011, 09:43 AM   #13
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Originally Posted by phillip View Post
What if you have 2 a/c units, one for upstairs and one for downstairs? I've heard all kinds of different advice on running one or both. Some say set both to same temp always; some say run only upstairs and let the cooler air drop to downstairs; and some say run the downstairs unit when you're downstairs and upstairs unit when you're upstairs.
Interesting question, and one that we haven't discussed. I would never shut either of them completely down, that's for sure. IMO you should set them both at whatever temp you desire, and let 'em go. Obviously the upstairs one is always going to run more.
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Old 07-23-2011, 09:47 AM   #14
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me ac is clean and working good .. had to replace a capasitor this year .. we clean our outside unit at least twice a year mainly because we live right on a country road and lots of farmer traffic rolls in the dust ....
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Old 07-23-2011, 09:50 AM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bugeater View Post
That's what I always thought as well, but I was told by several people who are a hell of a lot smarter than me that it's not the case.
I don't see why that would be the case, though.
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