12 Air Conditioning Tips for the Summer

Katy Willis
Written by Katy Willis
Updated April 19, 2022
mother and daughter sit on couch in living room smiling and enjoying air conditioning
Photo: fizkes / iStock / Getty Images

Keep your cool with these easy AC tips

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Few things beat that blissful blast of cold air when you enter your air conditioned home after a long day in the summer heat. However, your air conditioner can account for up to 70% of your energy costs during summer months, and around 12% of your annual energy costs. Check out these AC tips and tricks to lower energy costs and get the most out of your air conditioner.

1. Get Your Air Conditioner Serviced Early

The number one air conditioning tip is to get your AC serviced each year. Don't wait until mid-summer when the temperature skyrockets. If you put off that service visit too long and miss a small problem, it can turn into a big one that leaves you sans-AC during the hottest months of the year. Instead, save your money (and your sanity) by having your AC unit serviced by a local air conditioning repair professional. Do it once spring is in full swing and the temperature starts to rise, but before you need to run the air conditioner on a regular basis. An annual service should keep your AC unit in peak condition, running efficiently and free of any costly preventable repairs so you can put your summer fun money toward something more enjoyable.

2. Get Potential Problems Looked At Immediately

If your AC has a potential problem, don't wait until it becomes a big one. Take action and call a pro right away to save yourself money long-term. If you wait, that small thing that would've cost you a few dollars to fix can suddenly cost hundreds. Even if you had the unit serviced in spring, parts can still wear out with use, get blocked, and break down over the summer, resulting in inefficiency and damage.

Signs Your Air Conditioner May Need an HVAC Professional

If you've performed basic air conditioner troubleshooting and you've still got problems, it could be time to call in a local HVAC professional. Here are a few signs that your system has issues:

  • Increased energy costs without increased usage

  • Frequent system cycling

  • An iced up compressor (only attempt to remove ice from your AC if you know how)

  • New (and probably unpleasant) sounds

3. Check Air Filters Monthly

If you're trying to figure out how to make your air conditioner work better, checking the air filters regularly is the best place to start. When they get dirty or clogged, the system has to work harder to draw in enough air. Old air filters not only increase energy use, but also put more strain on the system. Checking the filters monthly and cleaning or replacing them whenever necessary is one of the easiest ways to improve your air conditioner's performance and efficiency and maintain the long-term health of your system.

4. Keep the Area Around the Condenser Unit Clear

If your outdoor condenser unit is surrounded by plants and debris, it won't be as efficient. Take the time to clear away any dirt and debris. Remove weeds and cut back plant overgrowth to allow proper airflow around the unit and improve air conditioning efficiency throughout your home. Ideally, leave an empty 4-foot radius around the condenser unit.

5. Shade the Condenser

One of the simpler and most effective air conditioning hacks is to set up some kind of shade for your condenser. If the condenser sits in direct heat and sunlight, it gets hot. The hotter it gets, the harder it has to work. Remember though, that you want to avoid surrounding the unit and blocking airflow. Instead, you just want to provide shade to keep off the worst of the heat, without blocking air.

6. Check and Vacuum Vents Monthly

As well as checking the filters, you should add inspecting and vacuuming the vents to your AC maintenance schedule. Pet fur, dust, and general debris build up quickly in HVAC vents and even a small amount impacts the efficacy of your cooling system. Additionally, furniture and furnishings can move an inch or two without you noticing and end up partially covering a vent. So perform basic vent inspections every month and give each one a quick vacuum to keep them clear.

7. Keep Doors and Windows Closed

Remember how your mom always yelled at you to close the door behind you? Turns out she had a point. Every time the kids rush out to play and leave the back door open or you crack a window, you're letting the conditioned air out and hot air in. Your AC is forced to cycle on and work harder to maintain comfortably cool air, which is inefficient and adds substantially to your energy bill. Of course there are times when you want to air out your home, but make sure you turn the AC off first so you're not wasting money.

8. Weatherize Doors and Windows

Small leaks around doors and windows and even in the attic can add up to big increases to your utility costs over time. These small gaps let cold air out and hot air in, which forces the AC to work overtime, which can lead to expensive repairs.

9. Make Sure Your Thermostat Allows for Maximum Efficiency

There's two parts to this important AC tip. First, where is your thermostat? In modern, professionally installed systems, the thermostat is likely already in a good spot. But with older or DIY installations, the thermostat is often in a convenient but too-warm location, like in the kitchen or near a sunny window. If that's the case, you should consider getting a professional to move it to a better spot because, long term, it's much more cost-effective. If it remains in a position where it gets too hot, it cycles on unnecessarily because it thinks your whole home needs cooling more than it actually does. 

Second, even if your thermostat is in a prime location, make sure there are no appliances nearby that could generate heat and interfere with temperature readings.

10. Install Window Film

A great way to save energy year-round is to install window film. It's a quick and easy fix that insulates your windows, keeping your home cooler in summer and warmer in winter.

11. Consider Your Landscaping

The outside of your property has a direct impact on the temperature inside. If you have a lot of asphalt, concrete, and rock close to your walls, they absorb and radiate heat, which increases the temperature around your home. This makes your AC work harder to keep things cool indoors. If you do have lots of heat-radiating elements around your property, consider adding trees with big canopies to provide shade. Even a couple of well-placed trees can have a dramatic cooling effect.

12. Think About Upgrading

Even if you do have your AC serviced every year and take care of all maintenance tasks regularly, the system has a limited lifespan, and if it's breaking down regularly and costing a lot to run, it may be time to upgrade. Find out more about when you should replace your AC. You'll likely recoup the cost of installing a new air conditioner in energy savings and property value increase.

While air conditioner servicing and hiring a pro to catch early repairs will cost you money, they save you money long-term. But, there are also plenty of simple things you can do to maximize the efficiency of your AC system, save money, and reduce the need for repairs. Use these air conditioning hacks to keep your cool all summer long.

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