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Air Conditioning

When it comes to getting the most out of your investment, air conditioning systems are very much like automobiles: they operate more efficiently and last longer when they get scheduled care and attention and are operated properly.

Experts say there are many ways to increase the life of your air conditioning system and decrease energy costs at the same time. Here are Kendall County Air's top five of the most effective:

1. Clean or replace your filter at least once a month.

When a central air conditioner circulates the air in your home, dust and dirt particles collect on the filter that's located in the indoor unit or ducts. Excessive buildup on the filter forces the system to run longer to maintain your set temperature. This can make utility bills rise.

Most residential systems have disposable filters. These should be checked every month and replaced when necessary with the same size filter as originally supplied. Permanent filters should be cleaned according to manufacturer's instructions.

2. Keep debris clear of the outdoor unit.

Efficient operation of your central air conditioner requires a free flow of air over the coils in the outdoor unit. Anything that blocks this flow forces the unit to operate more strenuously.

Keep it clear of leaves, dirt, newspapers and other debris to help it work at peak efficiency and hold down operating costs. Never stack anything against the side of the unit or drape anything over it. Keep trees, shrubs and other landscaping located near the unit trimmed back.

3. Service the system on a regular basis.

Preventive maintenance is the least expensive kind. Keep your system in top shape through regular checkups to best ensure that it will keep working for you.

The best time to have your system checked is in early spring, before the cooling season starts. Kendall County Air offers a Planned Service Agreement which provides routine maintenance, including monitoring motors, belt tightening, drain-line clearing, and checking of refrigerant level, among a list of other items. We also recommend having your heating system checked each fall as well, especially if you own a gas furnace where carbon monoxide is a real threat.

4. Leave your thermostat at one setting.

If you want the optimum balance between comfort and cost, keep the temperature settings at 78°F for cooling. If you have a programmable thermostat, keep adjustments to a minimum once you've set it. Only adjust it when a new program is needed.

If you're going to be away for a few days, don't let the system run unnecessarily. Raise the thermostat to 85°F and simply reset it when you return.

5. Operate appliances during cooler parts of the day.

Household appliances such as washers, dryers, ovens and ranges can generate heat and humidity inside the house. Using these appliances during the hottest times of the day, when your air conditioning system is working hardest, just adds to the burden.

By scheduling washing, drying, baking and cooking for mornings or evenings when it is cooler, you can remove this extra burden from your system and help keep costs down.

Of course, as experts point out, none of these steps will significantly decrease operating costs if your home is not properly insulated. This is the single most important step in saving energy, since it keeps the cooled air in your home when you need it the most.

Infiltration of hot outside air is another one of your cooling system's worst enemies, so find the places where air sneaks into your home and plug them up with caulk or weather-stripping. Closing these leaks will help greatly in maintaining your comfort, reducing energy use and extending the life of your air conditioning.