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Until they’re absolutely needed, air conditioners are frequently overlooked. So long as these systems turn on, emit cooled air and don’t produce any strange sounds or odors, most Tucson homeowners assume that they’re working just fine. Unfortunately, these aren’t reliable indicators that an AC system is running efficiently.

Without regular testing, inspections, and tune-ups, this equipment could be driving up your home energy bills, needlessly expanding your carbon footprint and failing to provide the level of functionality that you deserve. Here are six quick and easy ways to test the efficiency of your home’s AC system.

1. Check for Increases in Your Energy Bills

Absent of marked increases in local energy rates, your home energy bills should not change significantly from year to year unless you’ve added brand-new appliances or other electronics that you’re heavily reliant upon. When general life habits remain basically the same throughout the entire household, this bill shouldn’t fluctuate wildly. Take stock of your energy bills for the past several years, and look for dramatic jumps in recent months. More often than not, sudden spikes during the normal cooling season indicate air conditioner problems.

Scheduling routine maintenance is an easy way to improve air conditioner efficiency. Filter changes, professional cleaning and tune-ups are all efforts that can more than pay for themselves. If your air conditioner is nearing the end of its lifespan, expect recent increases in energy costs to continue until you have the system replaced. It’s also a good idea to consider adding more insulation to your home, sealing up gaps around windows and doors, and identifying other possible sources of air leaks. You can additionally have your ductwork checked for air leaks that are dumping cooled air into the spaces behind drywall rather than allowing the system to distribute conditioned air into the actual living area.

2. Check to Ensure That You’re Getting Even Cooling Throughout the Home

Hot and cold spots throughout a building are a sign that an air conditioner’s efficiency is declining. Uneven temperatures in different parts of the building may also mean that your cooling equipment is improperly sized for your house. Installing equipment that is too large for a home can result in short-cycling, which leads to air conditioners turning on and then quickly cycling back off. Rather than providing even, consistent cooling, oversized cooling equipment provides only short bursts of cold air followed by short periods of no cooling at all. Likewise, an undersized air conditioner will run all the time, and it will rarely, if ever, create the desired temperature.

3. Make Sure Your System Isn’t Designed to Cool the Whole Building

Central cooling systems that aren’t zoned for selectively or individually cooling rooms are fast being rendered obsolete. In light of the most recent innovations in the cooling industry, these outdated setups are hardly efficient. Although closing vents or air registers in rooms that aren’t being used was formerly considered a good way to minimize energy waste, this strategy can actually place unnecessary stress on central air conditioners.

Having your HVAC system streamlined to deliver customized heating and cooling will modernize your home, add to its marketability and value and ensure that every resident can enjoy a needs-specific level of comfort. Zoned cooling will allow you to cool down individual rooms as necessary without having to supply conditioned air to unoccupied spaces.

4. Consider Your Cumulative Repair Costs

The need for frequent air conditioner repairs is one of the strongest indications that your AC equipment has reached the end of its lifespan. However, even if it has quite a few years left, a regular need for repairs may mean that one or more parts or major components are wearing down. When accelerated wear happens anywhere in these systems, excess energy is used due to increased stress and an increasing inability to provide thermal comfort.

Before your next AC repair service, ask your technician whether a replacement is the more cost-effective choice. With all things considered, you’ll likely find that replacing your existing equipment with a more modern and efficient AC model will lead to significant long-term savings.

5. Check for Signs of Excess Humidity in the Home

Most modern air conditioners provide the dual benefit of both cooling the home and regulating indoor humidity. If you have condensation on your windows, damp walls or residents who constantly feel sweaty or overheated, your air conditioner is likely failing in the second and equally important role that it performs. When the evaporator coils in an air conditioner are sufficiently cold, warm air condenses while passing over them. When evaporator coils grow warm, they lack the ability to remove indoor moisture. This is often the result of poor maintenance or refrigerant loss.

Not only do these issues lead to increased inside humidity, but they also often prompt building residents to lower their thermostat settings. This, in turn, makes air conditioners work harder, and it dramatically increases overall energy use. Depending upon the nature and severity of the problem affecting your air conditioner’s evaporator coils, you may be able to increase AC efficiency through professional maintenance alone.

6. Verify the Age and Expected Lifespan of Your Air Conditioner

A new air conditioner can last for approximately 12 to 15 years. The better that this equipment is maintained, the longer it will likely perform. However, even when air conditioners continue functioning without exhibiting any noticeable problems, this doesn’t mean that their efficiency hasn’t decreased. Many air conditioners experience a progressive decrease in efficiency after they have passed the halfway point in their lifespans. Initially, this decrease is fairly nominal, but once air conditioners are 10 years old or older, they’ll cause a noticeable increase in home cooling costs and an increasingly noticeable struggle in moderating indoor temperature and humidity. With age, air conditioners tend to work a lot harder.

If you’ve been in your home for quite some time, you’re probably well aware of exactly when your air conditioner will age out. If you’ve just moved into an existing home or if you’re thinking about purchasing an existing property, you can have a licensed AC technician estimate the cooling equipment’s remaining lifespan for you. Factors such as the year of installation, AC type and the maintenance and repair history can be used to determine if an air conditioner is ready to be replaced, if it’s worth repairing and if its efficiency has declined in any substantial way.

Air conditioner efficiency and home comfort go hand in hand. When AC systems are less efficient, homes tend to feel hotter, muggier and less pleasant all-around. Taking the time to assess the efficiency of your home cooling system could help you identify ways to prolong the lifespan of your air conditioner and save money.

At Rite Way Heating, Cooling & Plumbing, we’re committed to helping Tucson homeowners find affordable, sustainable ways to maintain optimal levels of home comfort. Call us today to schedule an appointment for cooling or heating maintenance, installation or repairs. We can also assist you with our full line of plumbing services, including water heater repair and installation.

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