A/C Struggling? Here's How To Help It Cope

It's not unusual for air conditioners to struggle when confronted with unusually high outdoor temperatures. And with local temperatures reaching record-breaking highs, there's an increased risk for your air conditioner to fail under the added stress. If your air conditioner is struggling to keep up with your home's cooling demands, there are a few ways you can alleviate some of the strain it's under.

Close Those Drapes and Blinds

Leaving your drapes and blinds open on a hot, sunny day may be good for letting in plenty of light, but it's ultimately counterintuitive for keeping your home cool and comfortable. The radiant heat that comes through your windows only adds to your air conditioner's current workload, making it harder for your unit to keep your home cool.

Keeping your drapes and blinds closed on exceptionally hot summer days can help reduce the amount of radiant heat that enters your home. If you enjoy letting the sunshine in, however, there are plenty of alternatives to consider. For instance, you can apply window tint films that help reduce radiant heat without reducing sunlight.

Keep Those Coils Clean

The condenser and evaporator coils both play an important role in your air conditioner's overall operation. Both rely on steady amounts of airflow in order to work properly. Over time, dirt and debris buildup can interrupt this crucial flow of air, causing your air conditioner to work twice as hard to keep your home cool. Keeping your evaporator and condenser coils clean can help ease the strain your air conditioner is under.

You can clean both coils using mild detergent, warm water, and a brush with soft bristles. If you plan on cleaning the coils yourself, remember to scrub the coils gently to avoid damaging the fragile aluminum fins. Don't forget to remove debris and trim back any vegetation that grows around the air conditioning unit.

Give Your Unit Some Shade

Most homeowners don't give much thought to where their air conditioner is installed, but it can have a tremendous impact on its efficiency and overall performance. Letting your air conditioner operate in direct sunlight can cut down its efficiency tremendously, resulting in a sluggish-performing unit that only gets worse as outdoor temperatures increase.

Shading your air conditioning unit by using shade trees, bushes, or a large awning can help improve its efficiency by as much as 10 percent, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. In addition to keeping your air conditioner from overheating, strategically placed shade can also help keep portions of your home cooler, thus reducing your overall air conditioning usage.

If you plan on replacing your air conditioner sometime in the near future, you may want to choose another location for your installation. If possible, you're better off installing your air conditioner on the north side of your home, where it's less likely to be exposed to direct sunlight. Talk with an HVAC services technician to better understand where to place your exterior unit.

Add More Insulation

This may sound a bit counterintuitive, but adding more insulation to your attic and other indoor spaces can help lighten your air conditioner's workload. Additional insulation can help prevent excessive amounts of radiant heat from infiltrating your indoor spaces. In addition, it can also prevent conditioned air from leaking out of your home.

Check for Leaky Ducts

Poorly sealed ductwork can also do a number on your air conditioner, making it work harder to maintain your desired level of comfort. An unexpected crack or gap in the duct system can allow conditioned air to escape into unconditioned spaces, robbing your occupied rooms of conditioned air. Dust and mold can also infiltrate your air conditioning system via these cracks and gaps, resulting in a negative impact on your home's indoor air quality.

A thorough inspection of your home's ductwork by a seasoned HVAC technician can help prevent energy losses and other performance issues for your air conditioner.