Home Cooling by the Numbers
With a hot and humid summer nearly complete, we take a look back at the numbers of home cooling, offering a quick scan for air conditioner repair in Arlington, TX, a few Did You Know Facts, and other insights on ventilation, maintaining your air conditioning system, and common AC problems.
In the coming months we’ll take a look at home heating, prepping your heating system for the months ahead, and how to achieve energy efficiency (and save money) when it’s cold outside.
By the Numbers
Nearly 50 percent . . . of the average household’s energy use goes to space cooling, more in Arlington, Fort Worth, and Dallas due to extreme humidity and heat in late spring, summer, and early fall. That number is down from nearly 60 percent in 1993 thanks to more energy efficient equipment and an emphasis on making the entire cooling (and heating) ecosystem as efficient as possible.
Still, 50 percent can be a lot of money. One family in Arlington reported that its AC bill for July was nearly $500 — and that’s with two new (well, two-year-old) Trane units. It illustrates how important it is to properly seal and prepare one’s home to achieve the best performance, no matter whether it’s the cooling or heating season.
Nearly 22 percent . . . of all energy consumption for cooling is made up of residential households, with businesses accounting for the remainder. There are approximately 115 million households, averaging nearly 2,000 square foot (2014, Department of Energy).
More than $2,000 . . . it’s what the average household spends on residential energy annually (2009 figure), including HVAC and water heating.
Two-thirds . . . of all U.S. homes have air conditioners, more than three-quarters in Arlington, Fort Worth, and Dallas area. Although exact numbers are not known, a majority of air conditioners are not properly maintained and repair comes only when necessary.
$11 billion . . . is what it costs U.S. homeowners to power their air conditioners during the summer.
Did You Know?
20 to 50 percent . . . You can reduce your home cooling costs by 20 to 50 percent by upgrading to higher-efficiency air conditioners when your aging units wear out. This is a best-case scenario. As the family in Arlington found, they can still have $500 cooling bills in the summer if their home is not properly sealed and prepared for optimal performance.
Replacing air filters . . . is the quickest (and least expensive) way to save energy on home cooling. And it’s something that most homeowners forget about.
When there is excessive humidity in the air . . . which happens frequently during the spring and summer in Arlington, Fort Worth, and Dallas . . . our body’s inability to cool itself through perspiration is inhibited. Air conditioners make us feel cooler by reducing the amount of moisture in the air. Notice when you set the thermostat at 78 and it not only feels cooler you don’t feel as clammy? Bump up the thermostat to 82 or 83 (in an attempt to save money) and you’re not only warmer (duh) but you feel clammier?
More than 20 percent . . . of all energy may be lost to air leaks, poor insulation, and inefficient cooling and heating systems. This number increases as houses age, sealing around windows cracks, doors bow, insulation ages and becomes less efficient . . .
Reduce heating and cooling costs 10 to 35 percent annually . . . by installing low-e storm windows and weatherstripping. Weatherstripping is relatively inexpensive. Low-e storm windows are much more expensive, but there are many more energy-saving window strategies available today than there were even 10 years ago.
Save as much as 10 percent . . . on heating and cooling bills annually by simply turning thermostats back 10 to 15 degrees for eight hours a day. If people are home during the day, it might be best to turn the thermostat up at night when everybody is asleep. If the wife prefers cooler temperatures to sleep, set the thermostat higher for the duration of the day, at least eight hours.
Ventilation is the least expensive and most energy efficient way to cool a home. It’s often an afterthought for homeowners here in Arlington, Fort Worth, and Dallas area because of the humidity and heat but it is, naturally, top of mind for homeowners in cooler climates.
Natural ventilation . . . relies on wind to create a “chimney effect” to cool a home. A simple natural ventilation strategy is to open windows and create a cross breeze. This is usually is a good strategy in October and November in Arlington, then again in March and April.
Fans . . . circulate air in a room, creating a wind chill effect that makes us feel more comfortable. Ceiling and floor fans are commonly found in Arlington, Fort Worth, and Dallas area homes and require little amount of energy and no servicing or repair from air conditioning companies! Fans cool people, not rooms, so turn them off when leaving for the day.
Whole house fans . . . used to be a staple in Texas homes, although they are seen less and less in newer construction. These fans pull air through windows and exhaust it through the home’s attic and roof. To ensure proper sizing, safety, and performance, service professionals should design and install these fans. Surprisingly, even on the hottest days, whole house fans can provide sufficient cooling.
Help Maintaining Your Air Conditioner
Annual maintenance, routine servicing, and proactive repair from your Arlington, Fort Worth, and Dallas-area heating and air conditioning contractor helps improve your comfort, the equipment’s efficiency, and prolongs the life of the unit(s). It also helps lower your monthly energy bill.
Replace or clean air filters . . . can lower your AC’s energy consumption by five to 15 percent.
Checking the AC’s evaporator coil and cleaning it as necessary, which will be done by a service tech during a semi-annual checkup, is a great way to keep your equipment running at peak performance.
If coil fins are bent, use a “fin comb” to straighten. The comb can be found at any home improvement center in the Arlington, Fort Worth, or Dallas area or, if you prefer not to mess with it, the service tech will do the work for you.
If you have a split system — some equipment outside, the rest inside — be sure to clean debris and leaves from the fan, compressor, and condenser. You’d be surprised how many people don’t do this.
Occasionally pass a stiff wire through the unit’s drain channels to prevent clogs. If you don’t know where the drain channel is, ask the service tech the next time he is at your home. This is an easy thing to do and can be done when you routinely replace an air filter.
If you have window air conditioners, routinely inspect the window seals to keep cool air from escaping, which often happens as the seal cracks and becomes less efficient with age.
Common Air Conditioner Problems
So the unit isn’t cooling properly . . .
- The refrigerant could be low or leaking. Call your heating and cooling service or repair contractor in Arlington, Fort Worth, or Dallas to inspect, repair (if needed), and recharge the system. It is not recommended that homeowners handle refrigerant issues because the service techs have the needed equipment, material, and knowledge the rest of us do not.
- If you have a window unit, the thermostat sensor could be knocked out of position. It’s not a repair you need to call a service tech for — just carefully bend the wire holding the thermostat back in place to properly position it.
- Even inside the home there could be thermostat issues. Check the thermostat to make sure it is properly seated and making flush contact at all connection points. In battery-operated units, it’s easy to pull the thermostat face off the wall, replace the batteries, then misalign the contacts when replacing the face.
- Check your AC unit’s drain to make sure it isn’t clogged. An Arlington family left on vacation, left the house in the hands of a young housesit, who was at home when when part of a ceiling came crashing down. He called a neighbor, who climbed into the attic and found a clogged condensate line.
- Check for a dirty filter. Yes, it’s worth repeating over and over and over.
When the unit isn’t turning on . . .
- The compressor and fan controls could be worn from having the system turn on and off too frequently. Call your Arlington, Fort Worth, or Dallas-area service contractor for this one.
- Check that thermostat again. It may need new batteries or, depending on age, replacement entirely. It’s a relatively inexpensive upgrade that will help you manage energy usage and costs.
When there is limited airflow . . .
- Could be a ductwork issue. The ducts could be leaking air or be clogged or constricted. Again, an issue for a pro service tech.
- Check for a dirty air filter. A clogged filter restricts airflow and decreases efficiency.
As a reminder, when it starts to get cooler, we’ll take a look at home heating, prepping your heating system for the months ahead, and how to achieve energy efficiency (and save money) when it’s cold outside.