RALEIGH, N.C. — It’s only getting warmer this summer, and you may be thinking about buying or servicing your existing air conditioning system. After all, the last thing you want is for that air conditioning to go out in this heat!

The total cost of any appliance, including cooling systems, has three components — the purchase price, the cost of repairs and maintenance, and the cost to operate it. And with cooling among the largest energy expenses in the typical home, it is crucial that you maintain your system for efficiency.  

Maintenance and Repair

Keeping your system well maintained will prolong the life of the system and save you money. So be sure to have it checked every year by a qualified technician. Spring or early summer are the best times for servicing cooling systems. You can also do some routine maintenance yourself, by replacing disposable filters as needed or cleaning permanent ones.

Before calling a cooling contractor, check what model system you own and the maintenance history for the system. Understand the license and insurance requirements for contractors in your state or province. 

During a typical checkup for your cooling system, the technician should:

  • Inspect and/or clean condenser and evaporator coils.
  • Check voltage and amperage on motors.
  • Check pressures for proper refrigerant charge.
  • Inspect and adjust blower components.
  • Inspect condensate drain, clean if necessary.
  • Inspect air filters.
  • Check thermostat calibration.
  • Lubricate moving parts where necessary.
  • Inspect safety controls where applicable.
  • Check airflow.
  • Inspect appropriate electrical connections.
  • Start and operate the unit.

If you need repairs, be sure to get multiple written estimates for the job. If you need to replace your system, the estimate should include a full description of additional work required for the installation of ducts, registers, electric wiring, and any other work needed.

Make sure any contractor you hire to install your system is an approved, authorized dealer by the manufacturer. If they are approved it means they meet the requirements and the manufacturer trusts them to install and represent the product.

Find trusted, vetted HVAC contractors near you and get a quote.

Energy Efficiency

Being an energy-smart consumer means getting the most from the energy you use. Before you buy, conduct an energy audit. This will help you detect energy waste, gauge the efficiency of your current heating and cooling systems, and determine if conditioned air is moving properly. Your utility company may offer free or low-cost energy audits or a do-it-yourself kit. You also can hire a specialist to do a more comprehensive energy audit.

  • Shade your room air conditioner from direct sun. This will reduce its workload. Clean the filters monthly and replace as necessary to save energy and reduce dust and pollen in the air. Lower the setting when you go out to reduce operating costs.
  • Vacuum air vents, baseboard heaters and radiators regularly to remove dust that reduces heating efficiency. Move furniture, carpet, or curtains that restrict their operation. If your baseboard heaters have movable deflectors or vents, open them in the winter and close them in the summer.
  • Schedule annual tune-ups for your heat pump, furnace, or boiler. Check to see if your utility company provides this service.
  • Hire a professional to seal and insulate leaky ducts, and to ensure that the airflow distribution system serving your cooling equipment is operating at peak efficiency.
  • Check your attic, attic stairway, attached garage walls, and basement to ensure that you have proper insulation between conditioned and unconditioned spaces.
  • Prune back shrubs that may block airflow to your air conditioner.
  • Consider installing ceiling fans. The air circulation promotes cooling in the summer.
  • Consider investing in a programmable thermostat. That will create a comfortable temperature while you are home and help save you money while you are away.

You should also take steps to weatherize your home. Check the caulking, weather stripping, and insulation, and make any necessary repairs. This may enable you to install a smaller, less expensive cooling system to get the same results.

Consider energy efficiency from the start. All products must meet minimum energy efficiency standards set by the Department of Energy. But many products beat the standard, use even less energy, and cost less to run.

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