After a typically rainy spring and reasonably hot temperatures, the stifling heat and humidity have returned and with it comes strain on air conditioners, increased energy costs, and repair and service bills for Arlington residents.
In this post we help homeowners — and their air conditioners — cope with the high heat and muggy humidity that characterizes summer in Arlington and North Texas.
- Some tips deal directly with your heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems.
- Others are indirect or are investments worth making to lower energy bills, reduce the strain on your AC equipment, and lessen the need for repair and service during the year’s hottest months.
Advantages of Being Aware
Arlington and North Texas homeowners spend between 40 and 50 percent of their household energy budget on keeping cool. Being aware of the little things adds up and can help save a few bucks at the end of each month.
According to Arlington HVAC contractors and repair and service technicians, your goal as a homeowner is not to let the interior of the house become uncomfortably hot because the air conditioner cannot cool it down in a reasonable amount of time. Any extra work places additional strain on equipment, which most likely will necessitate a repair or service call.
Most homeowners are unaware how air conditioners are meant to operate. The equipment is designed for about a 20-25 degree change in temperature, so 100-degree air would only be cooled to about 80-75 degrees — not that you let your home get to 100 degrees inside.
However, when it’s 110 degrees in Arlington it seems like the air conditioner is only cooling to the low to mid 80s, even if the thermostat is set to 74-76.
Whatever you can do to eliminate inefficiencies and your own bad habits helps your air conditioner be more efficient, cool better, save you money, and avoid sometimes costly repair and calls to your Arlington home.
There are things you can do in your home that seem to have no direct bearing on the performance of your air conditioner but, in fact, can help it run more efficiently. A few ideas:
- Use the microwave. It uses two-thirds less energy than your heat-emitting stove or oven. It’s quicker, more energy efficient, and it heats the food, not the house. Taking heat out of the air is less warm air that needs to be cooled.
- Run the dishwasher at night and dry laundry outside (except for those unmentionables). Steam from the dishwasher can fill the kitchen, and moisture from drying clothes increases humidity. Both impact HVAC performance and in the heat of an Arlington summer every little bit helps save money and wear and tear on the equipment.
- Block the heat. On a hot day, close windows and doors as quickly as possible, which children never seem to understand. Something most people forget: If no one is home, close blinds and curtains that take the bulk of the afternoon sun before you leave for the day. Use white or light-colored blinds and shades to reflect heat instead of absorbing it.
- Vent. If you use the stove to cook on a hot day or you take hot showers in the morning, use vents in the kitchen and in the bathroom to remove hot steam from the air. That hot air lingers in a bathroom, wafts into an adjoining room, and draws more attention from the air conditioner to cool the home.
- Use fans. Fans increase air movement, which can make you feel up to five degrees cooler, while using less energy. Did you know: Fans won’t cool a room, so turn them off when you leave to save energy/money.
Investments Worth Making
Most of these items are relatively inexpensive and make sense. North Texas homeowners, however, are more concerned with planting spring flowers, lawn care, and doing fun things in the summer than keeping an eye on air conditioner performance to avoid repair and service.
- Install roll-up bamboo shades outside of windows that receive the hottest sunlight. This works well in the back yard more so than the front. Blocking the sun from the outside is more effective than blocking it from the inside.
- Insulate and weatherstrip the attic access door/cover. Homeowners don’t think about the attic door, but it can be an energy-wasting sieve. It’s a fairly easy, little-time-investment project for a Saturday afternoon. Consider installing a latch to hold the cover tight and reduce air leaks.
- Shade your air conditioner outside from the sun, especially if it receives late-afternoon sun (the hottest time of the day). Make sure it’s clean, unobstructed, and has plenty of airflow around it. If you are unsure what to do, ask the Arlington air conditioning repair or service tech the next time he visits your home for advice on what you can do specifically.
- Keep your outdoor air conditioning unit cooler by planting trees or shrubs or making an enclosure that provides shade but still allows air to flow around the unit. By properly shading the area, your AC can perform up to 10 percent more efficiently. Just make sure you leave enough room for the service tech to repair or conduct maintenance on the AC units.
- Good attic ventilation keeps your house cooler. Many homeowners, however, don’t know much about their attics, construction, or if their attics are even “ventilation efficient.” The next time you have any repair work or maintenance checkups, ask your Arlington repair or service tech to review the attic’s insulation and ventilation. There may be inefficiencies and room for improvement.
- Inspect and seal your ducts. If you have central air-conditioning, make sure any ducts located in unconditioned areas (especially in a hot attic) are sealed and insulated. (This is best done in the spring and fall.) Your Arlington air conditioner service or repair contractor can inspect and seal ducts for you to ensure efficient operation. Leaking ductwork accounts for 25 percent of cooling costs in an average home, so have your ducts tested and have any leaks or restrictions repaired. Note: duct cleaning is not the same as duct sealing.
- Invest in ceiling fans throughout the home. These are relatively inexpensive (unless you go for the fancy designer models) are are easy-to-moderately difficult to install yourself, depending on ceiling height and other circumstances.
More Energy Saving Investments
Planning on remodeling soon? Is it time to replace old appliances? Consider these energy efficiency suggestions.
- Install a whole-house fan. A whole house fan is permanently installed in your attic and draws cool air into your home through the windows while forcing hot air out through your attic vents. These were fairly common in older Arlington homes, however they are less so in today’s modern construction. Make sure the whole-house fan is properly installed and sealed tight. Use it after sundown when the outside temperature drops below 80 degrees and in the early morning to cool your home and help reduce air conditioner use. It’s great for spring and fall use. Something to think about: If your older Arlington home already has a whole-house fan, take a look at it and see if you can add temporary insulation on it when it’s not in use in the summer — just leave yourself a reminder at the switch so you don’t turn it on with the insulation on top.
- If you are not buying new, solar-efficient windows, consider applying solar window films to existing glass. This can be an effective method to reduce peak performance during hot months and conserve energy anytime the AC runs.
- If existing insulation level is R-19 or less, consider insulating your attic to at least R-30. The ability of insulation to slow the transfer of heat is measured in R-values. The higher the R-value, the better the insulation material’s ability to resist the flow of heat through it. If you are unsure the, next time your Arlington air conditioning repair or service tech is in the home for a maintenance checkup, ask him to review the status of the installed insulation for possible upgrading.