Cooling/OFF: Optimizing Your HVAC System for Arizona Summers

    Coming home in Arizona is a wonderful thing in the summer, especially when your air conditioning system is fully optimized and cost-efficient.

    The Right Temperature

    The right temperature is a delicate balance between your family’s comfort, the health of your system, and your financial bottom line. The lower you set your thermostat, the more you’ll strain your system and the higher you’ll make your electric bills.

    The U.S. Department of Energy recommends setting your thermostat to 78°F when you are home.

    When they’re not home, many homeowners decide to turn off the thermostat to save on power bills. However, experts say that this is a bad idea for both energy conservation and the health of your equipment.

    An AC system works best when it only has to slightly cool a home, and if the internal temperature of a home rises above 85°-88°, the system will have to work very hard to bring the temperature back to the mid-70s, taxing the components and increasing the power consumption.

    “It’s smart to lower the temperature in the early morning, and as the heat begins to rise, turn the thermostat up so the unit doesn’t struggle through the hottest part of the day,” said Robert Marcheski, owner of POLAiR HVAC Services in Mesa. “Then turn it down when the sun has set and the heat load is off the house.”

    Most HVAC experts agree that one of the best ways you can make your system comfortable and efficient is the use of a programmable thermostat. These thermostats allow you to set temperature settings base on time of day and day of week, and WiFi enabled thermostats allow you to adjust those based on weather and changes in your schedule.

    The Department of Energy estimates that homeowners can save 10% a year on energy costs with a programmable thermostat.

    Maximize Efficiency

    Once the right temperature is set, savvy homeowners can take extra steps to maximize efficiency.

    • Use Window Treatments. Use blinds, curtains, and suncreens to prevent heat from entering your home.
    • Turn on the Ceiling Fan. Setting your ceiling fans to blow air downward will help rooms feel cooler without needing a lower temperature.
    • Seal Your Home. Ensure that your ductwork, weather stripping, and caulking around doors and windows is keeping the heat out and the cool in.
    • Limit Interior Heat Sources. Limit the use of appliances like your oven and stove until after 7 or 8 pm. Grill more in the summer!

    Keep Your System Healthy

    “Due to extreme ambient temperatures,” said Marcheski, “our systems typically work harder than others throughout the country.”

    As a result, extra care must be given to Arizona AC systems.

    It’s a best practice to have your AC system inspected, cleaned, and maintained every six months to prevent any chance of unexpected breakdowns. Many of the issues that arise are due to elements that are not visible to the homeowner.

    Keeping your system optimized by regularly replacing your filters is a big step as well. Dirty filters can strain the system and lead to inefficiency, breakdowns, and repairs.

    “Filters should be serviced monthly throughout the year,” said Marcheski. “Typically, systems with low efficiency duct work should use thinner air filters to prevent the system from overworking, whereas systems with efficient ductwork can use thicker filters.” While some homeowners choose to change their filters every three months, changing them monthly will ensure optimal performance and keep power costs lower.
    Equipment matters as well. Marcheski puts the average life expectency of an East Valley unit at 12-15 years due to the fact that our systems work harder than in other parts of the country. When units are approaching the end of their useful life, investing in newer and higher-efficient systems will make a significant difference in the long-term efficiency of your home cooling needs.

    Protect Your Exposed Equipment

    The outdoor units bear the brunt of the Arizona weather, but the sun and monsoons aren’t the only environmental threats to be mitigated.

    Pets can damage these units as well. “Acids in your dog’s urine are highly corrosive and can eat through yoru AC coil and aluminum fins,” said Marcheski. He recommends using odor sprays, building a fence around the AC unit, or planting bushes around the unit to keep a pet from spraying it.

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