Summer weather in our local area is hot and humid, and homeowners rely on a dependable central HVAC system to maintain a healthy and comfortable indoor environment. Operating an air conditioner can account for up to 60 percent of a building’s total electric bill in the summer months, so it is important to develop a comprehensive energy efficiency strategy.
How Capacity Affects Efficiency
The most critical factor in determining air conditioning energy usage is the relationship between the equipment and the total cooling load of the home or office. HVAC contractors that do not design AC systems according to ACCA Manual J standards may grossly miscalculate the capacity requirements of the unit.
For central air conditioners, this typically results in the installation of equipment that is significantly oversized for the application. Excess capacity will cause the unit to short cycle, which can degrade indoor comfort and result in substantially higher operating costs. Undersized AC systems may not have the ability to meet the thermostat call, which can result in excessive wear on critical parts. If left unaddressed, air conditioning repair costs can escalate, and the system may eventually experience a catastrophic failure.
The Energy Efficient Home
Inexpensive efficiency improvements will help lower monthly utility costs and also eliminate extreme indoor temperature fluctuations. These upgrades will prepare your home or office for the most severe summer weather and also provide a superior return on investment.
- Preventative Maintenance: Regular AC maintenance helps reduce power consumption and total runtime hours. Technicians perform a variety of important air conditioning services designed to identify small problems before they affect system performance.
- Change Filters: Dirty filters restrict the air flow, which forces the equipment to work longer and harder. Disposable fiberglass filters should be changed monthly, and high-efficiency media filters should be changed on a quarterly basis.
- Seal the Perimeter: Sealing gaps in the building envelop will reduce the infiltration of hot, outdoor air. This includes caulking around doors, windows, utility penetrations and the sill plate. Eliminating exterior penetrations will save energy and also reduce drafts in the winter.
- Seal the Ductwork: Duct systems in older homes can lose as much as 50 percent efficiency as the air travels from the unit to the register. Loose connections and breeches in the ductwork allow conditioned air to escape into the attic or crawl space. Negative pressure leaks can also draw dust, dirt and fiberglass into the air stream, which can ultimately contaminate the living area.
- Add Insulation: Homes that were built prior to the mid-2000s may have substandard levels of insulation in the walls and ceiling. Buildings with accessible attic spaces can benefit from upgrading the insulation to current Department of Energy standards. Insulation remains one of the least expensive and most effective ways to improve efficiency and lower the total air conditioning load.
- Add a Programmable Thermostat: A programmable thermostat uses smart technology to adjust the indoor temperature based on the living habits of the occupants. In general, the temperature is raised while the building is vacant and gradually lowered just before the first resident arrives. Homeowners that use programmable thermostats can save up to 30 percent on monthly cooling costs.
Simple Ways to Improve Efficiency
Planting shades trees, closing the blinds and raising the thermostat by a single degree are other easy methods to improve efficiency, reduce operating expenses and lower the stress on the air conditioner. In addition to saving money, these simple upgrades can also help reduce the building’s environmental impact and significantly improve indoor comfort. Call Gartner Heating & Cooling when you are ready to explore your energy-efficient HVAC options.