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10 Air Conditioning Mistakes You Can’t Afford to Make

Ignoring proper AC management will raise your energy bills, decrease the efficiency of your system and ultimately require repairs. So avoid these 10 common mistakes and reap the cool rewards!

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air conditioner with landscapingChristian Delbert/Shutterstock

Ignoring Sizing Requirements

AC units are carefully sized to the amount of cubic feet they need to cool. That’s particularly important when you are purchasing a new AC unit or renovating your house. If an AC unit is rated for a smaller space than you have, it will work too hard to cool the air, wear out more quickly and struggle to meet the demands of the thermostat. If the AC unit is rated for a larger space than you have, it will constantly turn on and off, wearing itself out and growing undependable over time. Pay attention to capacity and pick the right unit for the space you have. These are the nine air conditioner myths you really need to stop believing.

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noisy air conditioner fixFamily Handyman

Never Cleaning Fins and Coils

Air conditioner coils and fins help the evaporators inside the house and condensers outside absorb and release heat. This process of moving heat is vital, but layers of dust and grime can impede it. If you never check your coils, that grime is decreasing efficiency and costing you money. Clean your air conditioner at the beginning of the warm season and check it from time to time, especially after storms or high winds to make sure your coils and fins stay clear.

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Structure Tech

Ignoring Your Air Filter

Your home’s air filter helps remove dust, allergens and more from the air passing through the system. These filters are typically light cardboard-and-wire constructs that are designed to be regularly replaced. After six months or so, that filter is so filled with dirt that air has a tough time getting through, and the unit can’t really do its job anymore. That not only increases the dust in your home, it greatly decreases airflow and efficiency for your AC unit. You can improve energy use for your AC by five to 15 percent just by replacing a dirty filter, so make sure that you get a new filter a couple of times a year. And remember to check and change it after particularly dusty activities, like a big demolition and remodel.

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thermostatDaniel Krason/Shutterstock

Not Updating (or Setting) Your Thermostat

A programmable thermostat is a must-have in today’s state of AC technology. Programmable thermostats let you set temperatures for various times throughout the day, saving you money and managing your cooling without constantly hovering over the device. Many advanced thermostats like Google’s Nest thermostat actually have learning capabilities, so the thermostat can shift to accommodate repeated schedules. It also allows you to change the temperature from an app.

If you lack one of these programmable or smart thermostats, the time to upgrade is now! Save money and enjoy more accurate cooling with a simple thermostat replacement, especially if your current thermostat is a couple of decades behind the times. Plus: 21 air conditioner maintenance and home cooling tips you need to know.

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Not Checking Your Draintrainman111/shutterstock

Not Checking Your Drain

Many air conditioning systems use drains that take care of condensation and related issues by channeling water outside of the house. These drains can be easy to miss, but they have an important job. If one of these drains gets clogged and overflows, it’s bad news for your AC system and even worse news for surrounding floors and walls, which can be permanently damaged. So keep your drain line clean, and don’t be afraid to snake it with a wire every year or two so gunk doesn’t accumulate.

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Turning the Temperature Down Too Low

This is a common mistake that goes back decades, when many homeowners didn’t understand how their AC systems worked. People frequently turned their thermostats way down, thinking it cooled the space faster. It doesn’t. The AC works just as hard to lower the temperature one degree as it does to lower it by 20 degrees. It’s just a matter of time and the settings you have chosen. So program your thermostat to exactly where you want it, not lower than you need. Plus: This crazy fan will keep your house cool all summer long.

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fix air conditionerJP WALLET/Shutterstock

Avoiding Replacement

The initial cost of replacing your AC unit is high, but that doesn’t mean you should avoid a new purchase. Don’t make the mistake of keeping your old air conditioner long after you should. An old air conditioner will perform poorly, cost you more in repairs and eventually become more trouble than it’s worth. If your AC unit is 10 to 12 years old or older, you could start saving money on monthly bills by investing in a newer, more efficient version. Plus: These simple tricks will keep your house cool all summer long.

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Never Arranging a Check-UpBaLL LunLa/Shutterstock

Never Arranging a Check-Up

As we mentioned, most air conditioning systems use refrigerant that absorbs heat from the house and disperses it outdoors. This refrigerant compound is important to AC operation, but small amounts can escape over time, making the system less efficient. How do you know if you need to add refrigerant? Arrange for an experienced technician to come test your AC system and adjust refrigerant levels to the proper amounts.

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Using the AC When No One Is HomeButsaya/Shutterstock

Using the AC When No One is Home

When setting schedules, pay attention to when people will actually be in the house. In the middle of the weekday, when family members are at work or school, you can turn the temperature up significantly to save money. The same is true of the middle of the night, when people are asleep. Don’t set the AC to lower the temperature when no one will be around to enjoy it.

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Forgetting About Your WindowsLisa S./Shutterstock

Forgetting About Your Windows

A lot of heat enters the home through windows, especially open windows. If you really want to control heat in your house, pay attention to your windows, too. Keep them closed with blinds or drapes drawn during the hottest parts of the day, especially windows facing the sun. In the evening, open upstairs and downstairs windows to encourage a natural flow of cooler air. The less work an air conditioner has to do, the better! Plus: 12 aha! ideas for keeping your house cool this season.