Air conditioners in Arizona work hard in the summer. The 100 degree plus temperatures we experience mean our air conditioners get heavy use for months at a time. The Department of Energy website states that homeowners spend $11 billion a year to power their air conditioners. It’s essential we keep our a/c units in tip-top shape to keep them working efficiently and our energy bills in check.

According to the SRP, air conditioning can account for 40% or more of your total electric bill in the summer. However, there are plenty of things we can do in our homes to ensure we’re getting the most out of our air conditioners.

Here are some things we can do at home to help our a/c units work as efficiently as possible:

Install a programmable thermostat.

Programmable thermostats give you precise control over your home’s temperature throughout the day. You can set it to coincide with your schedule, so you’re not cooling your home when you’re not there. You’ll be using your air conditioner less and saving money on cooling bills.

For your thermostat to work correctly, it should be on an interior wall out of direct sunlight, and nothing that generates heat should be near the thermostat. Be sure to set the fan on “auto” mode, so it shuts off at the same time as the compressor.

Some programmable thermostats have advanced features that let you sync a mobile device to control the temperature while you’re out. The more accurate control you have over your home’s temperature, the more energy and money you’ll save. And, your air conditioner won’t have to work as hard.

What’s the ideal temperature at which to set your thermostat so you’re comfortable but not using excessive energy? The Department of Energy recommends setting your thermostat to 78 degrees Fahrenheit when you’re at home to keep your cooling bills manageable. You can set your thermostat several degrees higher when you’re away.

Leave most of the vents in your home open.

Closing too many air vents in your home prevents air from circulating as it should, reducing your air conditioning system’s effectiveness. It also creates a pressure imbalance that can force leaks in the ductwork. None of the vents in your home should be closed when your air conditioner is running.

Vacuum and wipe down the vents regularly and consider having your ductwork cleaned by a professional. All ductwork should also be correctly sealed and connected. Sagging ductwork can slow down the airflow from your air conditioner.

Do chores that generate moisture early in the morning or late at night.

Air conditioners reduce the amount of moisture in the air. Doing moisture-producing chores such as clothes washing, dishwashing, or wet mopping floors adds moisture to the atmosphere and makes your air conditioner work harder. Do full loads when using your dishwasher or washing machine to limit humidity and save energy.

Ventilation fans remove humidity from the air, so use the one in your bathroom while showering. Make sure the fan is vented to the outside, not just the attic. Use the ventilation fan in your laundry room while doing laundry to minimize humidity from the moisture.

Your air conditioner should be the correct size for your home. A unit that’s too big will only run for a short time for cooling but won’t run long enough to remove humidity from the air. An air conditioner that’s too small may run continuously without effectively cooling your home.

You’ll need to determine your home’s square footage to choose the right size air conditioner. To calculate the correct size for your air conditioner, multiply the square footage by 25 BTUs (British Therma Units). The number you get is the minimum BTU air conditioner you should buy.

Replacing a system that’s the wrong size with a correctly-sized, high-efficiency air conditioner will cool your home more effectively and save you money on utility bills.

Replace your air filters often.

Air filters need to be replaced as often as once a month in the summer. Dirty filters prevent your air conditioner from working as efficiently as it should and will raise your energy bills. The dirt on filters can also reduce the air quality in your home.

Write the date on your filters when you replace them, so you can keep track of how long they’ve been in use. Check them often, and if the filters look dirty, replace them.

Use ceiling fans to help cool rooms.

Ceiling fans move air with their blades to provide a gentle breeze, so your air conditioner doesn’t have to work as hard. The air movement a ceiling fan generates can make you feel about 4 degrees cooler, and fans use around one-tenth the amount of electricity of an air conditioner.

Make sure your fan blades go counterclockwise to blow air downward. Turn off your fan when you leave the room to save energy.

Make use of window treatments to block direct sunlight.

Keep your blinds and curtains closed to direct sunlight during the day. Consider installing insulating window treatments.  Less heat will penetrate your home, you’ll save money on energy bills, and your air conditioner won’t have to work as hard.

Windows facing south and west get brutal sun exposure in Arizona in the summer months. Using sunscreens on those windows can reduce the amount of heat that enters your home. These screens can block up to 90% of the heat that would otherwise heat the window glass and warm your home. All windows and doors should be closed tightly whenever your air conditioner is in use.

Seal all air leaks around windows and doors.

Air leaks let hot air into your home and cool air-conditioned air out. Door and window frames are common areas for air leaks. Check the caulking and weatherstripping and replace any that’s damaged. If doors or windows rattle or you can see daylight around the frame, there’s a leak that needs repair.

Air leaks cost you money in higher energy bills and make your air conditioner run longer to cool the air. Repair all air leaks as soon as possible.

Get your air conditioner professionally serviced every year.

In Arizona, the average lifespan of a central air conditioner is about 10-12 years. Having your air conditioner serviced annually by a professional will prolong your unit’s life and ensure that it’s working as efficiently as possible. It will also help catch any problems early before they become costly breakdowns.

There are also some steps you can take to protect your air conditioner, in addition to having it professionally serviced. Be sure to keep the area around your air conditioner clear of plants and debris. Trim any trees that hang low over your unit. If possible, keep your air conditioner in the shade.

Get more out of your air conditioner with Donley.

Founded in 1976, family-owned Donley AC & Plumbing can help with all your air conditioning maintenance and repair needs. The honest, caring team at Donley follows a legacy of outstanding customer service, and we have an A+ rating from BBB. The BBB has also twice awarded Donley its Ethics Award. Call today for valley-wide service 7 days a week at 602-787-3956.