Updated September 2023
During summer, most homeowners turn to air conditioning units to maintain comfortable indoor temperatures. You might need to rely on the AC for extended periods on scorching days, so it’s vital to know the status of your AC’s efficiency. An inefficient unit won’t cool your house adequately, and you will also end up paying higher utility bills. You should therefore check your unit often to ensure that it is working at optimum capacity. Here are various ways you can test whether your AC is running efficiently.
1. Inspect the Air Filters
The first thing to do to determine if the AC runs efficiently is to check the air filters. When the air filters get clogged, the debris impedes airflow, which affects the unit’s efficiency. The AC will have to work harder to meet the house’s cooling needs, and it ends up using more energy. You should change the filters every three months but change or clean them monthly if you live in a very dusty area or with a shedding pet. If you can’t remember the last time you changed or cleaned your filters, the AC may not be working as efficiently as it should, so clean or change it. This will keep your utility bills lower throughout the summer.
2. Monitor the Thermostat
The thermostat reads the temperature in your house and signals the AC to kick on until the house attains the set temperature. After this, the thermostat tells your system to shut down. If the thermostat is inefficient, the air conditioning unit will be inefficient as well. Pay attention to the low power warning from your thermostat and replace the batteries. Grime can also build up on the thermostat, affecting its functionality, so you should often dust and clean the outside cover.
You might also have thermostat issues due to its positioning. It should be away from direct sunlight and more than 5 feet from the door. When placed in direct sunlight, the thermostat will perceive your indoor temperature much warmer than it is and signal the AC to run constantly. Have a professional locate the thermostat centrally away from heat sources to improve your unit’s efficiency.
3. Measure Your Unit’s Temperature
You can also test your unit’s efficiency by measuring the air temperature. Turn on the AC on a hotter day and let it run for about 15 minutes at 80 degrees. Place a thermometer on the supply register. Leave your thermometer there for about five minutes. You also need to get the temperature reading from the air getting into the return vent. This is the vent that pulls warm air from your house into the AC. To differentiate the return from the supply vent, put a piece of paper over the vents. If the paper gets pulled toward the vents, this is a return vent, but if it moves away, that is a supply vent. Again, leave the thermometer for about five minutes in the return vent. If your AC is working efficiently, the air coming back to the house should be at least 15 degrees cooler than the air getting into the unit.
4. Inspect the Drain Line
A clogged drain line can also affect the efficiency of your AC. If too much water collects in the drain pan due to a clog in the drain line, the AC will keep shutting down before achieving the desired temperature. Most modern units have a safety mechanism that shuts off the system once it detects excess water to prevent damage. You should therefore check the drip pan often.
The presence of standing water within your system also encourages mold growth. Your system will then recirculate mold spores, which trigger asthma attacks, allergic reactions, and other respiratory illnesses. Once you notice that your drain system has a blockage, turn the AC off, locate the drainpipe, disconnect it, and use a shop vac to suck out the blockages. Rinse the drain line with white vinegar to prevent the growth of mold and bacteria. This will restore your unit’s efficiency.
5. Check the Blower
The AC blower aids in air movement to remove warm air from the interior and blow cool air back to the vents. A faulty blower will thus affect the efficiency of an AC. Keep monitoring your outdoor unit throughout the season. The blower is functional if you hear or see the fan moving and feel some air at the top. However, if you can’t see the blower moving, it could be faulty, so you need to call a professional to diagnose and fix the issue.
6. Inspect the Evaporator Coils
Even a minimal layer of dust on the evaporator coils can affect your unit’s efficiency. The evaporator coil draws out heat and moisture from the indoor air to allow cool air circulation. When clogged, the evaporator coils will not absorb as much heat, and the unit will struggle to maintain the desired temperature, resulting in higher energy usage. The air moisture can also freeze on the coil, and the AC can even stop working. Clean the coils with the no-rinse foam coil cleaner or seek professional assistance.
7. Check the Temperature From Room to Room
An efficient AC should maintain a steady temperature in all rooms. Once the unit begins to lose its efficiency, you will notice that some rooms feel somewhat warmer than others. A wrongly sized AC can cause hot and cold spots in your house. If you have an undersized unit, it will struggle to meet the cooling needs of the house, and it might thus not adequately cool all the rooms.
On the other hand, an oversized unit cools the space quickly and shuts off. These short cycles cause temperature fluctuations throughout the house. In such a case, have a professional size your AC based on the number of occupants, climatic condition in the region, number of heat-emitting appliances, and square footage of your house. Holes or poorly installed ductwork can also cause cold and hot spots. The cracks allow conditioned air to seep out, so the unit fails to cool the house adequately.
Need Professional Help in Improving Your AC’s Efficiency?
Factors like duct leaks, clogged air filters, wrong thermostat settings, and dirt coils affect the AC’s efficiency. You can resolve most of these issues by planning for regular maintenance. During tune-ups, the technician will replace or clean dirty air filters, lubricate moving parts, inspect the electrical wiring and controls, check the drain line, and clean the coils. Proper installation is also of paramount importance. Proper installation involves choosing the right AC with adequate cooling capacity, assessing its compatibility with the ductwork, ensuring adequate airflow, and recharging it with the correct amount of refrigerant.
If you are struggling with an inefficient AC and need professional help, reach out to Beyer Air Conditioning & Heating. Our company offers cooling and heating system installation, repair, and tune-up services. We also provide duct cleaning and repair, indoor air quality services, ductless AC systems, new construction services, and custom remodeling services in San Antonio, TX.