A common misconception is that air conditioning is all about power. Air conditioning capacity, typically measured in BTUs (British Thermal Units), is important, but it's far from the most essential aspect of your system.
Instead, the best way to improve your home's AC system is often through increased efficiency. Counterintuitively, running a more powerful system can often result in less efficiency and poorer cooling performance. A more efficient air conditioning system will likely do a better job of consistently cooling your home while saving you money.
This guide will discuss three of the best options for improving the efficiency of your air conditioning system without installing a whole new unit.
Ductwork Evaluation and Repair
It's easy to forget that your home's ductwork is also part of your HVAC system. Your air conditioner can't magically transport cool air to the rooms in your home; that air must first pass through a potentially long and complex system of ducts. The larger your home, the more ductwork you need to distribute air to every room evenly.
Energy Star estimates that a typical home may lose as much as 30% of its conditioned air to ductwork losses. These losses can occur for numerous reasons, including poor installation, old ductwork, or even tears and cracks created by rodents or other pests. The older the ducting in your home, the more likely you're losing some efficiency as air travels between rooms.
An HVAC contractor can conduct a duct leakage test to determine your ductwork losses. Nearly all ductwork will cost some efficiency, so you don't need to spend large amounts of money if your ducts are relatively tight. However, a duct-sealing project may be a good option if your contractor discovers substantial leakage. At a minimum, you should consider sealing or repairing any obvious defects.
Improved Attic Insulation
Your attic is a major source of heat loading during the summer months. Texas heat is no joke, and the sun beating down on your house all day will tend to superheat your attic. A well-designed attic ventilation system is necessary to protect your home's roofing, but even a ventilated attic will still get hot. Unsurprisingly, that heat will enter your home and stress your AC system.
The best way to minimize heat loading from your attic is through improved attic insulation. If you have a relatively new home that is compliant with current building codes, you may already have sufficient insulation in your attic. On the other hand, older homes may have much thinner layers of attic insulation that provide minimal protection.
Improving your attic insulation is a relatively cheap and easy way to improve the overall efficiency of your HVAC system. Increasing the R-value of your attic's insulation will prevent heat from escaping in the winter and keep that excessive heat out during the summer. If you're unsure of the state of your attic insulation, a professional HVAC contractor can evaluate its condition and make recommendations.
Routine Annual Maintenance Visits
The simplest and most cost-effective option to keep your air conditioning system operating well is to schedule routine annual maintenance visits. If you can't afford these visits, you should still take some basic do-it-yourself steps, including cleaning your outdoor condenser coils. Learning to perform this relatively straightforward task is an excellent way to help maintain system efficiency.
However, some maintenance tasks can be more challenging for the average homeowner. While the condenser is accessible and relatively easy to clean, your evaporator is inside your air handler unit and more difficult to reach. Measuring system efficiency, checking electrical conditions, and other more complicated maintenance tasks will require a professional.
Many HVAC contractors offer yearly maintenance plans to help reduce these costs, allowing you to maintain your system for a lower price. These plans can be a great way to save money. More importantly, you'll reduce your costs over the long run by keeping your system efficient and reliable.
Valderrama A/C & Refrigeration can help ensure your air conditioner is as efficient as possible, helping you to control costs and keep your home cool through the hot Houston summers. Give us a call if you're ready to take your AC system to the next level!