When it comes to a well-functioning home during these hot summer months, nothing is more important than an efficient air-conditioning unit. That’s because no one wants the utter discomfort of a malfunctioning air-conditioning system in July or August — not for one minute, not for one hour, not for one day.
“It all begins with the sun,” said Wellington Santana, owner and operator of The Cooling Company. “While it’s tempting to open the curtains or blinds to brighten your home and take advantage of the natural light, doing so raises indoor temperatures and causes the air conditioning to work overtime.
“To improve the effectiveness of your A/C unit, close all curtains and blinds on windows that face the south and west during the day. Also, consider investing in solar screens, which can lower cooling costs by deflecting solar heat. And one last thing: Clean the area around the air-conditioning unit and make sure the area is free of debris. Having any obstruction of airflow in the A/C unit will only increase monthly bills and reduce the system’s efficiency.”
Santana suggests that the best way to ensure that the central air-conditioning system is in good working order is to arrange for a tuneup.
“Just as you visit your doctor or dentist on a yearly basis, consider the same for your air conditioning system,” he said. “You can prevent little issues from escalating into major problems. The system may be running well today, but some issues that may not be readily apparent could break down tomorrow.
“During a tuneup, an experienced HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) technician can detect many of these complications before they have the chance to affect performance. The checkup may include replacing all the indoor air filters making sure that the air circulating through your home is clean. The checkup allows the technician to catch problems before they lead to equipment breakdown.”
Refrigerant is vital in the proper operation of a central air conditioning system. When refrigerant is low or not properly charged, then the air conditioner will not function at peak performance, and there will be a distinct difference in the comfort level of the home’s temperature.
“There are several signs a homeowner can notice to help verify that the central AC is low on refrigerant,” Santana said. “If your A/C system has a refrigerant issue, it will have to work harder and run longer to keep your house at the set temperature. Check your electric bills from the same time last year and compare usage amounts. Unless there has been a major rate increase or there is a record-breaking heat wave, these amounts should be similar.
“Another sign is ice buildup on the outside unit.”
Santana explained that cold air-conditioning refrigerant flows through the unit’s evaporator coil. When the refrigerant is low, the coil gets too cold and causes liquid refrigerant to flow back to the copper lines.
“The surrounding moisture on these lines will freeze, so check your outside unit for ice,” he said. “And finally, listen for a hissing sound. Central A/C refrigerant doesn’t evaporate or run out without a reason. The only reason your refrigerant would be low is from a leak. If this leak is large, then you may hear a light hissing or bubbling noise as it escapes. This noise can come from any point along the refrigerant line, so listen closely at different points to see if you hear anything.”
Low levels of refrigerant not only affect the home’s comfort level but can severely damage the air conditioner. If the refrigerant is flowing back into the outside unit, it can damage the compressor, and that can be expensive to replace. If there is a leak, contact an HVAC professional to handle the repairs, as refrigerant can be dangerous to handle.
Another important component of a cool home and energy efficiency is insulation. Inadequate insulation and air leakage are the leading causes of energy waste in the average home.
If installed properly, insulation should last for years and not lose its efficacy. The problem is that there is not enough of it. So homeowners need to investigate and know that insulation saves money and helps a home maintain a comfortable and uniform temperature by making walls, ceilings and floors cooler in the summer.
Many HVAC companies provide free energy inspections that include looking at the insulation in the attic and checking ductwork to determine if there are any leaks. While adding additional insulation can be done by the homeowner, the job can be difficult in getting all the necessary equipment into the attic and knowing how to navigate and crawl around an attic and knowing how much insulation to use.
NV Energy helps customers in replacing or upgrading their central air conditioning equipment. PowerShift instant discounts are available on high-efficiency, qualifying central air conditioning systems with a seasonal energy efficiency ratio rating of 15 or higher.
Participating local contractors can help find the right solution and equipment and identify potential monthly savings. The instant discount will be reflected directly on the contractor’s invoice, and customers do not have to fill out additional paperwork to receive the discount.