Summers are getting hotter and you need to be aware of how exterior temperatures and climate affect the performance of your heating and cooling equipment and what you can do to ensure that they’re running at peak performance when you need them the most. Our guest blogger Erin will explain how to help your HVAC products both inside and out for a comfortable summer.
Now that we’re headed into the dog days of summer, you can probably see the hot weather’s effects on your electricity bill and stepping outside quickly reminds that you’ll pay a king’s ransom just to stay cool.
Just because you can set your AC at 60-degrees doesn’t mean that you should. Understanding how the weather—and your thermostat set-point—affects your system’s efficiency and overall performance will help you give your HVAC the TLC it needs to survive, even during the most extreme temperatures. Here’s what you need to know.
Humidity doesn’t just make your hair curl. Your area’s moisture levels can wreak havoc on your system’s performance, in hot weather as well as cold. When weather conditions are particularly hot and humid, your AC will have to work harder to compensate and keep your home cool, putting more strain on the individual components. On the flip side, when humidity levels drop in the winter, your home will feel even colder, so it will take all the more energy to keep it heated.
Typically, AC units take care of some humidity on their own without any intervention on your part, but when the weather runs to extremes, the levels may be too high for them to handle. If your home feels muggy, or if you notice a musty smell or condensation on your windows, that can indicate that the humidity is overwhelming your AC.
Installing a dehumidifier directly on your HVAC system helps wring some of that excess moisture out of the air. That way, you can adjust both the temperature and humidity in your home from a single access point. Similarly, a HVAC humidifier on your system helps manage dry wintertime conditions. A separate dehumidifier or humidifier will also work. However, you’ll need to adjust it manually, rather than through your thermostat.
You know that sticky feeling you get in the summer, where you feel like you need a shower all the time? It’s not just your imagination—moisture heavy air collects and deposits dust and debris, which can really rack up the grit. This build-up affects your HVAC as well, especially the outside components, which bare the brunt of the weather.
To keep your AC functioning efficiently during high humidity, periodically wash the build-up off the exterior unit using a garden hose. You can also give the condenser coils a rinse with a specialized cleaner—that will also give you a chance to make sure no vines or weeds have found their way inside the unit. Or just hire an HVAC contractor to give your system a full tune-up.
Just came in from outside on a hot day? Well, don’t touch that dial! During a severe heat wave or cold snap, it can be tempting to push your thermostat to the extremes. But a very low or high temperature set-point can overtax your AC, heat pump, or furnace—plus, it’s just not all that energy efficient.
Ramping up the heat or AC doesn’t do the job any bit quicker. On a hot day, it’s a much better idea to throw on a fan—the wind chill effect will bring your body temperature down fast. Or, if it’s chilly, heed your mom and dad’s advice and put on a sweater. Pairing these strategies with your heating and cooling will keep you more comfortable, and help your HVAC work more efficiently.
Climate plays such a huge part in your system’s overall performance that the US Department of Energy actually regulates the type of HVAC systems allowed in different parts of the country. Each HVAC unit must meet regional minimum requirements for its Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER). Those minimums vary not only by location, but also according to the type of unit you have. So if you’ve installed natural gas heating, for instance, the requirement will be different than if you have a heat pump.
If you’re thinking of replacing your system soon, your HVAC professional will know about system ratings, and the minimum efficiency requirements your units must meet. However, keep in mind that those numbers are just the minimum. HVAC technology is evolving quickly, meaning there are systems available for sale today with much greater efficiencies than what is required by the DOE. Investing in a more efficient system now may seem like a lot of money, but it will save you a lot over time—especially since a high-end system can last up to 15 years!
Overall, your HVAC system is just like anything in your home: it will only work well if you take care of it. Changing your filters regularly, vacuuming your registers, and scheduling seasonal cleanings will all keep your system humming—no matter what the elements decide to dish out!
Erin Vaughan is a blogger, gardener and aspiring homeowner. She currently resides in Austin, TX where she writes full time for Modernize.com, with the goal of empowering homeowners with the expert guidance and educational tools they need to take on big home projects with confidence.