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Is My Air Conditioner Running Efficiently?

When temperatures rise, you are constantly thankful for the relief your air conditioning brings. But your AC doesn’t seem to be working quite the same as you remember, and now you’re wondering about its efficiency. Here are some simple ways to identify when your system is no longer efficiently cooling your home and requires service.

Time Your Cycles

When your system runs shorter or longer cycles, you have a problem with its operational efficiency. Ideally, your system’s cycle will last between 15 and 20 minutes and will cycle two or three times an hour.

Time your cycle during normal operating conditions, meaning not during extreme heat and when it is only working to maintain temperature. If it runs longer than 20 minutes or is extremely short, you have an efficiency problem and need service. Either problem will increase your utility costs and the wear on your system.

Check the Temperature

The temperature coming from your vents should be 15 to 20 degrees cooler than the air cycling into the system. Any less than that, and you have either a problem with your refrigerant or a dirty evaporator coil.

Checking the temperature differential is rather easy if you have a meat thermometer. First, let it sit out in the room with an air return duct and record the ambient room temperature.

Next, carefully put the probe in an output vent with your unit running, and you can feel the cool air coming out. Simply compare the two temperatures and make sure it is at least 15 degrees different. Just be careful not to drop the probe into your ductwork.

Get a Sense for Air Volume

While you’re checking your temperature, also check your air volume. For this, you simply need to feel with your bare foot or hand by placing it in front of an output vent.

An efficiently running HVAC system will have noticeable air movement from your vents. It is this air movement that works to cool your home, not just the compressor running.

Lack of airflow can be caused by a physical obstruction, like a dirty filter or evaporator coil. A mechanical failure, such as a bad blower motor, may also reduce airflow.

Check Your Air Filters

Your air filters are the most common form of an airflow obstruction, being that their entire job is collecting airborne contaminants. You should change your filters regularly, about every 90 days for the standard 1-inch filter. However, poor air quality may necessitate more frequent changes.

Plan to check your filter monthly so that you get a sense of how quickly it clogs. Gently vacuum the dirty side, known as the intake side, to help extend its useful life.

Inspect Your Condensing Unit

Your air conditioner has two primary units, the indoor evaporator unit and the outdoor condensing unit. The outdoor unit is responsible for transferring heat from the refrigerant to the air outside. Anything preventing that unit from transferring the heat properly causes the system to run inefficiently.

The primary thing you want to check is for anything preventing air from flowing through the condensing coils. This could be branches, weeds, grass, or any other debris blocking the area around the unit. As a rule of thumb, keep everything at least 12 inches away from your unit.

Loud or Unusual Sounds

While you’re looking for inefficiencies, listen to your system run, both inside and outside. Any loud or unusual sound indicates a problem that is likely causing cooling inefficiency.

For instance, a squealing sound may be one of your fan motors going bad. This could potentially restrict how much air the fan is drawing through the system.

Likewise, banging, rattling, or clanking from your condensing unit may indicate something broken in the compressor. A bad compressor may not regulate the refrigerant’s pressure properly.

Consider the Age

The average air conditioner will last 10 to 15 years with proper maintenance. As your system ages, some components become suboptimal, leading to reduced operational efficiency.

If your system is over 10 years old, begin the conversation with your HVAC technician about a replacement. Starting the process now allows you more control over the process, rather than waiting for a catastrophic failure.

Dugan Air has been the air conditioning service provider of choice for people around Franklin for over 14 years. Our NATE-certified technicians are sought out for their reliable heating and AC installation, maintenance, and repairs. Call to schedule your air conditioning service with one of our friendly technicians today.



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