We are well into the dog days of summer and, odds are, you are relying pretty heavily on your home’s air conditioning unit.  Well, it would behoove you, and all others that reside within your home, to know some key factor that can keep the cold air pumpmon and thus, the good times rolling through the rest of the long, hot summer.  

Filters

If you frequent this site (thanks, BTW), you have probably picked up on the fact that we are constantly making the recommendation to routinely change the filters in your home.  To be clear, we mean all of your filters, furnace, range hood, dryer, water filtration systems, but quite possibly most important are the filters that live deep within your air conditioning unit.  Over time (really not that much time), dirt, dust and other general yuckiness build up on your filters, causing your unit to work harder in order to pass air through it.  By changing your filters regularly, you cut down on the amount of work that your AC has to do, which increases its performance and longevity.  Not to mention, you are not breathing in all of that aforementioned yuckiness.  To achieve maximum efficiency (sounds good, right?), the professionals recommend changing out your filters every 45 days, even monthly during the months when you are really leaning on it.  

Clean it up

While a clean filter is incredibly important to reaching maximum coolness whilst also achieving maximum efficiency, the cleaning does not stop there.  It goes without saying that you should keep the top of your AC unit clean and free of any debris or lazily placed garden tool.  Additionally, you can haul your shop vac, or even your home’s trusty vacuum cleaner outside to do a bit more tidying.  The fins of your air conditioner can use a good, yet gentle vacuuming in order to remove dirt and gunk.  However, do so with a gentle hand, these fins can be fragile and the last thing you want to do is damage your machine with an overzealous cleaning effort.  

Made in the Shade?

Now, let us begin by saying that this tip is highly debated, with some swearing by its efficacy, and others crying foul.  But, we felt it our duty to provide you with all of the info and let you decide for yourself (the more you know, right?).  This also might not be so widely known in some parts of the country, yet is a standard practice in areas like Texas and Arizona (you know, places that reach temperatures that climb startlingly close to those on the sun’s surface). The idea seems simple, provide your air conditioning unit with a little shade.  Ideally, your AC unit has been installed in an area around your home where it already receives some shade from the structure of your house, or on one of the sides that receives less sunlight (the north side is best).  The theory is, having your AC unit in the shade helps to keep the air that surrounds the outer condenser cooler, which increases its efficiency.  Now, whether the shade that can be provided by trees or other shade structures can actually cool the air enough to make a significant difference is the notion that most critics of the practice find flaw.

Let us be VERY clear.  Do NOT cover your AC unit with a tarp, blanket or the like while it is running.  You should have about five feet of clearance from the top of your AC.  Also, while we’re on the topic, you should keep about two feet of clearance all around the rest of the unit as well.  Failure to do so will almost certainly result in a broken unit, a very hot home, and a very sweaty and sad you.  Not a good look.  

Set up a Check up

While there are plenty of things that you can, and should, do in order to keep your air conditioner working at tip top shape, there are some things that are simply better left to the professionals.  Generally speaking, you should have the pros come out to take a look and service anything that might need tinkering with, no less than once a year, ideally twice.  While the ambitious DIYer may scoff at the idea of paying anyone to service their home on that frequent a basis, trust us, you’ll be far better off in the short and long term.