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At Orlando HVAC and Air Conditioning Pros, we encourage customers to learn about their AC systems and learn basic maintenance steps that they can perform on their own. This knowledge can go a long way in preventing costly breakdowns and keeping your system running efficiently. To save money on cooling this summer, here are some AC tips from our pros.

Change your filters!
One of the most common causes of AC failures and breakdowns is dirty filters. A dirty filter itself won’t cause mechanical problems. However, when the filter is dirty, then dirt will get into the AC system and coat components, which in turn can lead to breakdowns. Dirty filters and components are also going to restrict air flow so your AC system doesn’t work as efficiently. During your next yearly AC checkup, ask our pros about which filter is best for your system. We will also tell you how often you should be changing your AC filters, which is usually about once every month.

Are there appliances near your thermostat?
Is your air conditioner cycling on when it shouldn’t be, or running for too long? The problem could be something simple, like that you’ve placed a heat-generating appliance too close to the thermostat. Make sure that all TVs, computers, lights, and appliances which produce heat are not placed near the thermostat.

Is it the heat or the humidity?
If your AC is on but you still feel uncomfortable, don’t immediately crank down the thermostat. Oftentimes, it isn’t the heat which is making you feel hot and uncomfortable. Rather, humidity is often to blame. With many AC systems, it is recommended that you have a separate dehumidification system in place (home air conditioning just isn’t designed for humidity control). By reducing humidity, you will probably find that you can turn the AC thermostat up (and reduce cooling costs) but still stay comfortable.

Is your landscaping helping or hindering your AC system?
Having trees to shade your home and roof can go a long way to reducing your need for air conditioning. But landscaping has other roles in your AC too. You can plant shrubs or trees near the outdoor AC unit to keep it shaded and cool, thus helping it operate more efficiently. Just make sure that you don’t have shrubs too close to the AC unit or leaves could cause blockages.

Learn to check for AC clogs.
Unfortunately, we’ve seen multiple cases of severe water damage which could have been prevented with routine AC maintenance. Air conditioners generate a lot of condensation, which is funneled away from your home through a drain line. Sometimes this drain line can get clogged, which causes the water to back up into the home, leading to thousands of dollars worth of water damage. When you schedule AC maintenance with us, we will clean the drain line as part of routine service. However, it is good to learn how to check this yourself, especially if you are only getting a yearly AC checkup. You can also talk to our professionals about installing a float switch which will detect if water is building up in the drain pan and automatically shut off your AC before water damage occurs.

Weigh the costs of HVAC repair vs. upgrades.
We understand that most people don’t plan for HVAC breakdowns, so you probably didn’t budget for it either. However, we encourage you to carefully weigh the costs of HVAC repair versus upgrading to a new unit. It may seem cheaper to repair the old system but, if it is old, then you are probably better off upgrading. The new HVAC unit may be pricier than the cost of repairs, but this will quickly pay off in reduced utility bills.

Claim your tax rebate!
The Federal Government offers tax rebates when you install a qualifying energy-efficient HVAC system. These tax rebates can help offset the initial costs of the upgrade so your investment pays off much faster. Make sure the unit you purchase qualifies for the rebate though! We have carefully studied the rebate policy and can tell you which units qualify. We will even provide you with the paperwork for getting the rebate.

Set your thermostat at 78 degrees.
The lower your thermostat is set, the harder your AC unit will have to work. You can save 1-3% for each degree your thermostat is set about 72 degrees. For each degree above 78, you’ll save 7-10%! Most people are comfortable at 78 degrees. If not, then it could be because of high humidity.

Size before you buy!
Don’t make the common mistake of buying the same size AC unit that you had before. In many homes, the AC unit was never properly sized to begin with, which means poor efficiency, humidity problems (and subsequent mold problems), and mechanical problems. AC systems cannot be sized by the square footage of your home; a Manual J load calculation must be performed by a professional. This step is vital to making sure you get the right size AC system for your home and aren’t wasting money on too-high utility bills. Remember, you only buy an AC unit once every decade or two, so you want to make sure you get the right one.

Do your homework before you buy.
A new AC unit is a big investment, so you should research your purchase carefully. Make sure you understand what really makes a unit energy efficient (motors, compressors, and variable-speed fans), and the key terms for measuring performance (like SEER and BTUs). Don’t be shy about asking your HVAC technician questions about recommended products. Our technicians are happy to help and can even give you breakdowns of how much energy each unit will use and how this translates into savings on your utility bills.

Install a programmable thermostat.
Installing a programmable thermostat is one of the simplest things you can do to reduce AC costs. We recommend getting a thermostat which has multiple daily settings so you can set it for your exact routine. *Don’t believe the myth that, if you turn your AC down at night or while you aren’t at home, it will have to ‘work harder’ to cool down your home when you turn it back up. It takes a lot of energy to keep your home cool throughout the entire day. Even if your AC system has to run longer to “catch up”, it is still less energy than if you’d left the AC on all day.

Upgrade your home, not just your AC.
If you want to save money on cooling costs, don’t just upgrade your AC. Upgrade your home too! The following steps can go a long way in reducing the need for AC:
• Hang light-colored blinds over windows.
• Use portable fans or ceiling fans. It won’t cool the room, but it will make it feel cooler so you can turn the thermostat up.
• Rearrange your furniture so it isn’t obstructing ducts and therefore reducing efficiency.
• Use major appliances at night when it is cooler. Those washing machines, stoves, and other appliances can generate a surprising amount of heat!

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