Droughts and heat waves affect millions of homeowners each year. If you have a central air conditioner, your home is well-equipped to handle the heat. Extreme heat places a significant strain on any cooling system, but there are a few things you can do to help your AC run more efficiently when you need it most. Use these tips to prepare and protect your AC from high temperatures.
Cover Windows and Use Supplemental Cooling
Making use of other cooling resources is one easy way to lighten the load on your air conditioner. After your HVAC system, your windows are the next most versatile option for controlling the temperature in your home. Covering your windows during extreme heat blocks a significant amount of sunlight and lowers the chances that your AC will overheat. Blackout curtains and shades can reduce thermal transfer through your windows by up to 24 percent.
Supplementing your home's cooling with ceiling fans or freestanding fans will also reduce the strain on your air conditioner. Even if fans don't directly reduce the temperature in your home, any moving air creates a cooling effect against the skin. Don't forget, your AC has a built-in fan you can make use of as well. Setting your thermostat fan switch to the "On" position will make your system circulate air continuously while only engaging the AC compressor as needed.
Locate and Remove Air Blockages
When your air conditioner is already working against high heat, you'll want to resolve as many other sources of efficiency loss as possible. Restricted airflow is another common culprit behind poor AC efficiency. Central HVAC systems have a few points where air blockages can develop without the homeowner realizing it.
Your furnace filter protects your air conditioner from dust and other airborne contaminants that could damage its internals. Over time, the filter can become so clogged with dirt and grime that it restricts your system's air intake. Change your filter each month and check it again before any periods of extreme heat to ensure that your AC has the airflow it needs.
Vent registers and your outdoor condenser are the other areas where you should be concerned with air blockages. Avoid closing or blocking your vents during hot weather so your HVAC blower can move air without extra resistance. If there are any shrubs, lawn furniture, or other obstructions around your condenser, clear them away before a heat wave hits to minimize the chances of the condenser overheating.
These steps will help your air conditioner withstand any temperature while you enjoy a cool and comfortable home. However, some wear and tear that may cause an AC to struggle simply aren't visible to the homeowner. Finish preparing your AC for hot weather by scheduling a pre-season inspection with a local HVAC contractor.