3 BONUS Cooling Tips
1. Change Your AC Filters:
A clogged air filter could add 5% to 15% to your summer’s energy costs, shorten the lifespan of your whole system, and may even be undercutting your health. Change the filter on your central AC system regularly—check your filter every month, especially during heavy use months (winter and summer). If the filter looks dirty after a month, change it. At a minimum, change the filter every 3 months.
Don’t neglect this chore. A dirty filter can lead to poor air flow or freezing up of your unit’s evaporator coil, says James Braun, a professor of engineering and director of the Center for High-Performance Buildings at Purdue University.
“If you have a badly maintained system, it can become contaminated with microorganisms that may be harmful if inhaled,” says Mark Mendell, a staff scientist with the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory’s Indoor Environment Group. Mendell mentions asthma problems and allergies as some of those possible harms.
A recent study showed that over half of existing air conditioning units are improperly charged with refrigerant (commonly called Freon®). Improperly charged means too much or not enough refrigerant, not that the unit will not run. Even though improperly charged units seem to work fine and cool your home, the fact is these units are not performing optimally. Optimal performance increases efficiency, which is what we are all looking for these days…savings on our energy bills. A tuned-up air conditioning system is less likely to break down when the unit is needed most. Regular maintenance increases the lifespan and can give you an idea of how much longer your system may have before considering a replacement.
3. Taking Full Advantage of Fans
- Use ceiling fans to help keep cool air circulating throughout your home. This lifts of the burden from your AC system, Braun says. Turn ceiling fans counterclockwise during the summer, which promotes greater air flow.
- At night, use window fans to pull in the cooler air from outside to cool your rooms.
- During the hot summer days, place a fan in a position so that it’s blowing on the people in the room, but with the window shut.
“Fans don’t cool the room; they cool the body because there’s more air movement,” says Persily. And specifically, because they’re not cooling the room, it’s useless to leave them on when no one is occupying the space. In that case, the fan motor may actually just be adding to the heat in the room.
In the absence of an AC, fans can help keep us cool when we are hot and sweaty. Turn on the ceiling fans, oscillating fans, and boxed fans and let them all blow directly on you. “The sensation of [air speed]”—that is to say, air blowing over you—” improves thermal comfort in a cooling situation,” says Andrew Persily, an engineer focused on indoor-air quality at the National Institutes of Standards and Technology in Gaithersburg, Maryland. Fans create a wind-chill effect when air that moves over our bodies and sweat evaporates into the air, taking away the heat. That evaporation process, making us feel cooler.