The Science of Cooling: How Air Conditioners Work and How to Optimize Their Performance
With summer heat waves slowly fading, air conditioning is still necessary for most households. However, the world of HVAC (Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning) can be quite complex and intimidating to those who are not experts in the field. Today, we'll dive into the science of cooling and how air conditioners work to help you understand how to optimize their performance and ensure your home stays comfortable no matter how hot it is outside.
It's important to understand that air conditioners work on the principle of heat transfer. They remove heat from the inside of your home and transfer it outside. This process is made possible by a refrigerant, a substance circulated through the system. The refrigerant absorbs heat from the air inside your home and carries it to the outdoor unit, where it is released into the air. This is why the outdoor unit of your air conditioner feels warm – it's releasing the heat that was removed from your home.
You may wonder how the refrigerant can absorb heat from the air inside your home. This is where evaporator coils come into play. These coils contain the refrigerant and are located inside your home, typically in the air handler unit. The indoor air passes through the evaporator coil, the heat gets absorbed by the refrigerant and transferred outside. The cooled air is then circulated back into your home, providing relief from the heat.
A straightforward way to do this is to regularly clean or replace your air filter. Dirty air filters can restrict airflow, causing air conditioners to work harder and less efficiently. Another way to optimize performance is to keep your outdoor unit clear of debris and plant growth. The outdoor unit needs space to release heat, so make sure it has at least two feet of clearance on all sides. Additionally, keeping blinds and curtains closed during the day and using fans to circulate air can reduce the amount of work your air conditioner has to do.
Understand the Role Temperature Plays in AC Performance
The Department of Energy recommends setting your thermostat to 78 degrees at home and 85 degrees when you're away. Each degree below 78 increases your energy usage by 3-4%, so setting your thermostat lower than necessary can lead to higher energy bills. A reliable programmable thermostat can also help you save on energy by adjusting the temperature based on your schedule and preferences.
Having regular maintenance performed by a professional HVAC specialist can go a long way in ensuring your air conditioner runs at peak efficiency. A technician can perform tasks such as cleaning coils, checking refrigerant levels, and inspecting electrical connections to ensure your unit is working properly.
Understanding the science of cooling can help you optimize the performance of your air conditioner and keep your home comfortable during even the hottest days. By maintaining your air filter, keeping your outdoor unit clear, setting your thermostat at recommended temperatures, and scheduling regular maintenance, you can ensure your air conditioner runs efficiently and save you money on energy bills. Contact us at Command Service Center to get started!