Houston Heating, Cooling, and Electrical

How To Deal With Extreme Temperature And Keep Your AC Unit Working Well

Every year, Houston averages about five 100-degree days, and during those days, your air conditioner will feel the stress. There are many ways to protect your air conditioner from the extreme heat and give it a break, without compromising comfort. Here are some examples of things to do when the heat is unbearable:

• Adjust the thermostat regularly – During the hottest time of the year, bring the thermostat up a few degrees. Compared to the blistering heat outside, 78 degrees will feel perfectly fine, and you won’t have to push your air conditioner constantly to keep the temperature comfortable.

During the day, when no one may be home, raise the thermostat even higher. There’s no point running the air conditioner if no one’s around to enjoy it.

• Schedule annual maintenance – No system in the home works harder than the air conditioner, especially in Houston. Annual maintenance checkups will verify that your system is ready to handle the summer, and verify that the compressor, evaporator, ductwork, electrical contacts, fan and refrigerant are all in order, among many other things.

Annual maintenance will extend your system’s life and ensure it runs at maximum efficiency.

• Check and replace air filters often – The easiest way to maintain an air conditioner is by replacing the air filters on a regular basis. When air filters become clogged, they reduce air flow into the system, which means your air conditioner will have to work harder to pump cool air into the home.

• Shade the exterior unit – If the compressor is exposed to the sun all day, that’s a lot of extra heat for your air conditioner to deal with. Ideally, the compressor would be installed in a spot that is out of the sun, but if not, consider planting shrubs or putting a fence around the unit to help provide some shade.

• Keep heat out of the home – Every little bit helps when it comes to blocking out the heat, and there are several easy things you can do to minimize heat intrusion. For example, hang up curtains and close them to keep the sun out. Use thermal liners on your curtains, as this blocks out more of the heat. Window tinting can also achieve this effect.

Plant trees and shrubs to keep the sun off the home as even brickwork and wood will conduct the sun’s heat into the house. If there aren’t any vents in the attic, consider adding some as this will help heat escape out of the attic if it penetrates the roof.

You could also turn off pilot lights on anything you’re not using, replace incandescent bulbs with other lighting, unplug appliances not in use and take shorter showers to keep heat from building up in the bathroom.

• Use fans and dehumidifiers to improve comfort – Fans will keep air moving through the home, while dehumidifiers will take some of the moisture out of the air. Both can help the home’s occupants feel comfortable even when the thermostat is cranked up, so make use of both, if possible.

• Seal any leaks and insulate the building – The more cool air you can keep trapped inside, the less warm air your air conditioner has to replace. The best way to do this is to insulate the home and plug any air leaks. Weather strip and seal any drafty windows or doors, place more attic insulation and check the air ducts for any leaks. A lot of cool air can be lost through old ductwork, so make sure it is also inspected before the summer as part of your maintenance plan.

What should I do if my air conditioner isn’t cooling the home?

It’s not unusual for the air conditioner to struggle a bit on the hottest days of the year. AC manufacturers design their systems for maximum efficiency, which means they are designed to operate best when the temperature isn’t at the extremes. During these extreme, outlier days, it may seem like the air conditioner is failing, but that just may be due to system design. It may appear odd that AC units are built this way, but it ensures the system is efficient almost all of the time.

However, if the air conditioner is struggling to keep the house comfortable most days, then there could be something wrong with it. Check the air filter and change it if it is soiled. This could solve the problem outright, but if not, other parts of the system will need to be inspected. This includes the evaporator coils, which may freeze if the system is running nonstop. If the evaporator unit has ice hanging from it, or if it feels very cold on the side with the filter, then the coils are probably frozen. Turn the system off for a few hours and let the coils defrost, then turn it back on.

The compressor, vents and ductwork could all add airflow resistance due to leaks or equipment failure. This will also reduce the AC’s effectiveness. Low refrigerant may also be the issue, or problems with the AC’s electrical contacts, or issues with the system’s wiring.

If you’ve done what you can and the AC still isn’t cooling, an AC technician should have no problem finding the issue and can help get your air conditioner back to beating the heat, however extreme.

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