Did you know that the first commercial application of air conditioning was in 1902? And yet, residential central A/C didn’t come into its own until the 1960’s. According to the US Department of Energy, air conditioning use skyrocketed in the 1970’s. Since then, A/C units have become more efficient, such that new air conditioners use fifty percent less energy than units from the 1990’s. Additionally, new technologies are making A/C units increasingly environmentally friendly. New developments in air conditioning include non-vapor compression technology, which will be fifty percent more efficient and doesn’t use Hydrofluorocarbons (energy.gov).
Summer is around the corner. But I would venture to say that many of you already have your air conditioning running. We take for granted that our home’s air conditioning runs without fail. But proactive care of your A/C unit will keep it running efficiently while you stay cool through the hottest summer days. Here are some air conditioning maintenance tips from the US Department of Energy (energy.gov):
Regular maintenance of your home’s air conditioning system will ensure air flow. Regularly changing air filters can keep your system clean and keep the air flowing. A clean filter can reduce energy consumption by five to fifteen percent. Filter change requirements can vary from home to home, due to home conditions.
Over time, the A/C unit’s coils can become dirty, which will reduce its efficiency. Dirt on the coils can reduce airflow and prevent it from absorbing heat.
The outside condenser coils will likely become dirty from being exposed to the elements. It’s recommended that the area around the outdoor unit be clear of debris, leaves, and have about two feet of clearance for ideal airflow. Make sure that the air conditioner condenser drains are not blocked. A clogged drain can create excess humidity, which can create conditions for mold growth in basements and utility closets.
Window A/C units require maintenance too. You should inspect the seal between the unit and the window to ensure there are no air leaks.
Window A/C units should be covered during the winter to prevent dirt and debris from penetrating the unit.
Some maintenance requires a qualified HVAC technician. If you hire a HVAC tech to clean and service your air conditioning, make sure they have a current HVAC license. Hiring a professional doesn’t have to be expensive, as many HVAC companies run maintenance specials this time of year. Besides checking the refrigerant in the system, the tech will run a number of diagnostics as well as clean the system if needed. They will also make necessary repairs, such as sealing leaks.
If you’re on a modest income and cannot afford to service or upgrade your air conditioning, you may qualify for Montgomery County’s Homeowner Energy Efficiency Program. The program is in partnership with Habitat for Humanity Metro Maryland, Inc to assess applicants’ eligibility and identify their needs. According to a Tuesday county press release, “homeowners benefitting from the program will receive free energy-efficiency upgrades to their home which may include attic insulation, upgraded furnace and air conditioning units, water heater replacement, LED light bulbs, a solar-powered attic fan, a programmable thermostat and new appliances.”
The program is open to all Montgomery County homeowners. Eligibility requirements include; owning and occupying the Montgomery County home for which they are requesting services; they must be a PEPCO customer; and meet income criteria. For more information see the program website (habitatmm.org/montgomery-county-energy-efficiency-program).