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July 5, 2012

Keeping it cool: Tips to get the most out of your air conditioner as summer heats up

By Maria Allard
C & G Staff Writer

On those sweltering summer days when all you want to do is find relief from the hot and humid weather, going inside an air-conditioned room, home or building sounds appealing.

Once inside, you want to make certain you are getting the most from your air conditioner while at the same time keeping down your energy bill.

Cindy Forcier — president of Zilka Heating & Cooling in Sylvan Lake, a third-generation business that opened in 1946 — said one rule of thumb is to make sure the furnace filter is cleaned on a regular basis to allow for more air flow.

If the filter is small and consists of disposable paper, Forcier recommends cleaning it every two to three months. If the filter is larger, it’s best to hire a professional to take care of the cleaning process.

“The more air flow you have, the better and quicker it’s going to cool your house,” Forcier said.

Another tip for getting the most use from an air conditioner is to make sure the outside air conditioning condenser is free of debris, grass, cottonwood and other particles. A dirty condenser inhibits the air conditioner’s ability to cool a house or building correctly.

“If you have a plugged filter, it doesn’t have proper air flow,” Forcier said.

Jim Corrion, one of the owners of C & C Heating and Air Conditioning in Roseville, suggests keeping branches and bushes at least 12 inches away from the outside condenser.

A soiled condenser can be cleaned with a garden hose, Forcier said. However, it’s best not to use something too powerful, like a power washer, on it.

As far as the ideal temperature at which to keep the house, Forcier said, “Whatever is comfortable. The optimum temperature for cooling inside is 10 to 12 degrees cooler than the outside.”

“Most of our customers keep it somewhere between 73 and 78 degrees,” Corrion said. “That’s the normal temperature range most customers prefer. People like it five or six degrees above your heating temperature.”

And another suggestion for cooling the house on a scorching day is to keep the air conditioner running consistently, even if the house is unoccupied for a while. Don’t continuously shut the unit on and off.

“An air conditioner that works constantly will work less,” Forcier said. “Once it reaches its (temperature), it shuts down. When you turn if off and back on, the air conditioner will work for a lot longer than necessary.”

“About 30 to 40 percent of my customers use it all summer long,” Corrion said. “Sixty percent use it on demand. When you turn it on, it takes typically two to three hours to cool a house down.”

If you leave the house or building for a few hours, Corrion and Forcier both suggest to turn up the temperature about three degrees.

And it’s pretty simple to determine whether your air conditioner is working properly.

“The outside condenser has a copper line that runs through your house to your furnace,” Forcier said. If, after 10 minutes of turning on the air, the line becomes cold and has plenty of condensation, “chances are it’s OK,” Forcier said.

“The system should be checked out every other year, if not every year,” Corrion said. “If it’s not properly running or charged, you’re using more electricity that is the cost of a service call. We really recommend annual maintenance.”

Corrion writes a blog on the company’s website. On one blog, Corrion offered tips to save energy on air conditioning in the kitchen. One way is to use alternative cooking appliances as opposed to the oven or stovetop.

“On hot days, plan meals that involve the use of different cooking appliances, such as microwaves, speed cook or convection ovens, crockpots, electric skillets, roaster ovens, grills and griddles, panini and sandwich makers, deep fryers or toaster ovens, which can either eliminate or reduce long range oven use,” the blog stated. “You can also cook part of your meal in the morning when your kitchen is cooler, and combine other ingredients later for a delicious meal.”

Serving a cold food buffet, using the outside grill or having an outdoor picnic are other ways in which to cut down on oven use, thus not heating up the kitchen. Corrion also advises changing the kitchen ceiling light to a ceiling fan with a lighting fixture to “improve air circulation and provide a cooling breeze in your cooking area.”

Zilka Heating & Cooling is located at 2595 Orchard Lake Road in Sylvan Lake. For more information, call (248) 682-1210. After-hours service is available. The website is www.zilkaheating.com.

C & C Heating and Air Conditioning is located at 29420 Groesbeck Highway, in Roseville. For more information, call (586) 296-1800. The website is www.candcheat.com.

 

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Maria Allard at allard@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1045.