If you stay at a warm location and you look up your utility bills, I am sure you will realize that a large chunk of your bills comes from your air conditioning. This might even come as a surprise to you considering that you are actually removing heat energy, not adding heat energy to your system.
For most people, heat is energy, light is energy, and mechanical movement is energy. But to think that you need to run up your compressors, fans and other machines just to remove heat... , it does not make sense! Doesn't operating machines increase the energy in the system?
Surprising as it may seem, we do need machines to cool down a room. This is based on the fact that heat must flow from a higher energy state to a lower energy state - simply put; it means that heat can flow from a hot object to a cold object and not the other way round.
This means that if your surrounding atmospheric air temperature is 30 degree C, the temperature of the air in the room need to be above this value in order for heat to be transferred out. On its own, this heat transfer cannot happen. We have to do it mechanically by a process called refrigeration.
The details of a mechanical refrigeration system is too complicated to be discussed in this article, but it is just sufficient to say that it is critical to have an efficiently operating cooling system in order to decrease energy use and increase comfort, particularly in warm climates.
A well-maintained air conditioning system will use 15% to 40% less energy than a neglected one. That's quite considerable, isn't it? There are several components in cooling systems that need to be properly maintained.
Here are some simple things you can do to make sure your cooling system operates smoothly:
Clean or replace the air filter
Air conditioners have air filters to prevent dirt from building sticking up on the cooling coils. Examine your unit's filter once a month during the cooling season, and clean or replace it when it appears dirty. This alone can reduce your cooling energy use by 5% to 15%. Many filters are designed to be cleaned, but still may need to be replaced occasionally.
Filters in room air conditioners are usually behind the front panel. Most split-system central air conditioners use the furnace's air filter. In packaged systems, the filter is generally found in the main "return-air" register. If in doubt, check out the user's manual to help you locate it.
Clean the condensing cooling coils
The condenser cooling coils is where heat is discharged into the atmosphere. You will notice hot air blowing through the fans when it is operating. Clean the condenser annually by following these simple steps:
- Turn off the system at the thermostat, if possible, or turn the thermostat up to a setting that will not switch on the air conditioner. Also, turn off the power to the outdoor unit at the main breaker panel or at the disconnect located next to the outdoor unit.
- Remove any loose debris from around the unit and clean it with gentle household soap and water.
- Allow the outdoor unit to dry completely before turning on the power at the main breaker panel. After the main power has been restored, turn on the system at the thermostat or set the thermostat for normal operation.
Basically, by cleaning the air filters and the condenser coils, your air conditioning units should be able to keep their efficiency for a long time. However, just like any other machines, air conditioning system components do wear down with use. In this case, it is best to engage a professional to carry out the more sophisticated technical adjustments and repairs required.
A professional service technician should clean evaporator and condenser coils, check refrigerant pressures, and adjust and lubricate moving parts. How often you need professional maintenance depends on how much your cooling system operates.
For homes in hotter regions (where the air conditioner operates 8 or more months per year), annual service is recommended. Cooling systems in warm regions (where the air conditioner operates 5 to 8 months per year) should be serviced every 2 to 3 years. In colder regions (where the air conditioner operates less than five months per year), every 3 to 5 years is usually enough.
The technician may even suggest a replacement if the existing unit is worn out, inefficient, or significantly oversized.
There you have it - 2 simple ways to remain cool. Don't neglect that air conditioning unit.