Fighting The Dog Days Of Summer With Your Cooling System

ByVivian McNeil


“Could you please make it a bit warmer up here,” I asked my husband in desperation. “I’m freezing”, I exaggerated.

Tell me have you ever met a couple where the spouses agree on how cold or warm to keep the bedroom? Either the wife is warm-blooded and the husband cold or the opposite. I suppose that’s why the saying goes, opposites attract. We all agree, at least, that in the summer the AC is a must.

Most of us would agree that we have been experiencing a heat wave. Last week the weather was fairly reasonable now that summer is upon us, but today I received a recorded message from the water company asking if we could voluntarily curtail outdoor use of water due to the huge demand for water from the customers. No one is asking us yet to lessen the use of the central air nor is the electric company cutting off a bit of electricity from our homes. How can we assure the maximum efficiency of our home central air’s service?

Realistically speaking, all of us should have had our air conditioning serviced before the summer began. It’s prudent to have a service contract with your local air conditioning company so that they will come in yearly to check out your system making sure it is working at optimum efficiency. In theory, it would make sense to wait for the hot weather and then have your system checked out. That way you would be certain that it would be functioning in true summer weather. Unfortunately, I doubt you would get a serviceman into your home for a checkup come the summer weeks. They are too busy with serious repairs and people waiting impatiently for their broken systems to be repaired.

There are certain measures that a homeowner can take on his own to make sure the cooling system is working optimally.

1) Do you know where your filters are located? Filters can be purchased online or in most hardware stores or Home Depot and Lowes. Make sure you know the size of your filters as there are many different sizes and types. Always keep a spare clean filter handy when you go to buy a new box of filters. Taking a used filter to the store would be foolish since all the dust would fall into your trunk and all over you. That’s why it’s imperative that you always have a supply of the correct size filters. They’re easy enough to install, even my grandson does it for me.

2) Check each air conditioner vent in each room and make sure cool air is blowing from it. Some rooms have two vents so make sure you check them both. Don’t assume that just because one is working that the other is too. Also, sometimes a family member will privately shut a vent because they are cold and forget to open it up as the weather warms. My father has a short ribbon attached to a vent so he can check to make sure the air is blowing from the vent. We all can have our own individual tricks to make sure the vents are open and blowing cold air.

3) It is sometimes hard to know if your system is working correctly. When you see the temperature on the thermostat slowly rising don’t assume that your thermostat is inaccurate. This is the first way to tell if there is trouble in paradise. If you have already checked your filters and they are clean the next step is to clean the condenser filter or replace it if it is dead sometimes due to a thunderstorm. A repairman told me that he often gets calls after a severe thunderstorm about a broken AC system and many times the capacitor inside the condenser has died. First try to clean the condenser filter but if that does not work call a serviceman who will use a meter to check if the condenser is still workable.

4) Freon is constant and should not get used up. If your serviceman advises you that you are low on freon it means, there is a leak somewhere. You can have the serviceman refill the missing freon and that should last for the rest of the season. But sooner rather than later you will have to have the leak repaired. Some homeowners choose to have their freon refilled each year to avoid the cost of repairing the leak but that is only a Band-Aid fix.

5) What happens if your AC cooling is working great but you notice water leaking? Chances are there is a plugged condensate drain.

If you are the type of person who can follow directions on YouTube (I actually know someone like that personally) you may be able to do some of these repairs yourself. However, if you are like most of us, I strongly suggest you call a reputable AC repair service to fix your system correctly. The problem is getting a person to come down quickly since everyone is calling your repairman at the same time. Somehow AC systems break down on the hottest day of the year. And yes, you may be willing to pay anything to have your problem remedied. That’s why it is so important to have a good working relationship with a reputable AC repair service. The time to start on this relationship is in the spring when you call him in for maintenance before his busy summer season begins.

Assuming you’ve done your due diligence and have checked out your AC before the summer including changing your filters often, how can you get the maximum efficiency out of your system when a heat wave hits? Your utility bill has skyrocketed. Aren’t there any practical steps that a homeowner can take to make sure you are doing your utmost to get the most out of your system?

1) Lighting: The type of lighting you use in your home can make a big difference. Have you ever sat directly under a typical spotlight and felt the heat even on a cool day? Incandescent light bulbs give off considerable heat and you would be better off purchasing energy efficient alternative bulbs such as LED lights which also will be more long lasting and give off less heat. That is why this type of bulb is called cool lighting.

2) Do you keep your blinds open during the day to let in the sunlight? I like to do this when I wake up in the morning and use natural sunlight instead of artificial lighting. You would be much better off installing mini blinds or curtains to reduce the streaming of the sunlight and heat through your windows especially on the south facing windows. The temperature in your home will be lowered and so will your monthly electric bill.

3) Skylights are beautiful alternatives to artificial lighting but not during the summer season. For my old skylights I was forced to use dark color tarps and place one on each of my skylights in my den to reduce the heat coming through. Yes, it took away from the natural sunlight, but I did not have much of a choice since even with my central air on, the room would build up heat as the day wore on. My new skylights came with tinted glass which does reduce the heat coming in.

4) If you are a cook and baker like me your kitchen’s air conditioning is probably negatively affected when the oven is on. There is really little to do other than to cook outside on the grill and eat cold meals like salads. If you must use the oven, rather turn on the oven light and check for doneness instead of constantly opening the oven door and letting the heat escape needlessly into the kitchen.5) I was not aware that even electronic devices give off heat. Even when your computer or TV is turned off it will give off heat unless unplugged.

Final Words

Most of us love “those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer” when we are at the beach or in the pool. There is nothing as relaxing as being in or near the water. We expect our homes to be our cool comfortable haven to run to in the summer season. By keeping our air conditioning systems serviced early, changing filters, using cool lighting and shades on our windows we have a good chance of beating the stifling high temperatures during a heat wave. Let’s put on some relaxing music and mix up some iced tea or iced coffee and hopefully we can all enjoy a more relaxing summer this year. It is certainly an improvement over last summer when we had to walk around with masks giving us additional discomfort even as we relaxed on the beach. Remember, if you are lucky enough to have good air conditioning in your car, that might be the best place to be during a heat wave. It certainly beats hanging out on the fire escape.

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