An AC unit is an essential piece of urban summer survival gear. If you don't have a way to get cool during the summer, you may even put your health at risk. On the other hand, running an AC unit can absorb a disproportionate amount of your budget. If you want to free up some of your budget, you can take steps to improve the efficiency of your AC system.
Step 1: Change Your Filter
Changing your air filter is not a difficult task, but sometimes the smallest tasks are the easiest to ignore. If you tend to procrastinate the day that you change your filter, here is something to remember: a dirty filter can decrease your AC efficiency by up to 15%. Furthermore, a severely clogged filter can cause your evaporator coils to ice over, in which case your AC unit will not heat your home at all. It's a small thing, but changing your air filter can have a huge impact on how efficiently your system runs.
Clean Dirty Coils
If you think that changing your filter is the only maintenance your AC requires, think again. Your condenser coils are located on the outside of your house where they are exposed to everything that mother nature can throw their way—dust, yard debris, insect carcasses, dandelion fluff, etc. As grime collects in your coils, it will decrease airflow, which can decrease the efficiency of your AC by up to 37%. To clean your coils, first use a wet/dry vac to suck up any loose material, then spray on a commercially available coil cleaner and scrub your coils clean with a stiff-bristle brush.
Keep Plants away from your Coils
Condenser coils do nothing to dress up a yard; thus, you might feel tempted to obscure them behind a bush. As plants grow up around your coils, they will decrease the airflow through your coils and can affect the efficiency of your unit in the same way that dirty coils will. Thus, you will want to keep plants at least a couple of feet back from your coils.
You might think that the efficiency of your AC unit is beyond your control, but as the above examples illustrate, there is plenty that you can do to maintain your coils and preserve proper efficiency. A little AC maintenance can help you to free up money in your budget, so you can do the things you really want to do.