HVAC Air Conditioner Tune Up Tips

9 Experts Reveal How to Keep Your A/C Running Cold this Summer

Ah, summer, when thoughts turn to air conditioning. We have to have it, especially when we are trying to beat the summer heat!

But a quick Google search reveals what our air conditioning is doing … and what our air conditioning isn’t doing.

People ask Google:

  • Why isn’t my air conditioning cooling the house?
  • Why isn’t my A/C as cold as it used to be?
  • Why is my air conditioner blowing hot air?
  • Why is my air conditioner turning on and off?
  • How often should I change my air filter?

Then there’s this top search result and our favorite:

  • My air conditioner smells.

Your best bet if your air conditioner isn’t working is to call a trained, licensed HVAC technician.

But we asked experts for their top tips on keeping your air conditioning running cold and keeping your house cool this summer.

Number One Tip for Keeping Your A/C Running Cold

Across the board, every A/C expert we talked to said the same thing as their number one tip:

Change your air filter every 30 days or when needed.

As Shane Sammons with Sammons Air & Heat (Houston TX) said, “Dirty filters cause your A/C system to work harder and not cool properly.”

Experts from Poe Air (Fort Worth TX) agree. “Run times are extended in the summer requiring more frequent filter changes.  As filters get dirtier efficiency decreases and eventually people call saying their system is not cooling. It is important that you change those filters regularly in summer,” said Gary Poe.

Constellation Home

Some common problems that we see with air conditioning systems include a noisy system, a system that’s leaking water, a system that runs continuously or a system that doesn’t cool your home. Each one of these issues could indicate a different problem, from a refrigerant recharge to a possible component replacement.

Spring is the best time to check your system, before the temperatures rise. A quick way to check if your A/C is working properly is to walk around your house and check the temperature. Is your HVAC cooling your home evenly? Or are certain rooms colder or warmer than others? If there’s temperature disparity, it may be a sign that your HVAC system can no longer keep up with the cooling needs of your house.

Also before summer, check your duct work to ensure it’s not leaking air into your attic. In a typical house, 20-30% of the air moving through the duct system is lost due to leaks.

The other big issue with duct work is improper insulation. During the heat of summer, you may notice droplets of water accumulating on your ceiling vents and ask yourself, “Why is water dripping from my air ducts?!” It’s important to watch out for this and address it as soon as possible. The excess moisture could damage your duct work and lead to mold growth. Contact an experienced professional to inspect your duct work for leaks and improper insulation.

IMPORTANT NOTE FOR ALL HOME-OWNERS! If your system uses R-22 refrigerant keep in mind that R-22 is being phased out by 2020. That means if your refrigerant leaks after the year 2020, you will have to replace your entire system. If you have an older HVAC system, start budgeting now for a replacement system!

Advent Air

Serving Lewisville, Plano, Frisco, Irving, & the Greater Dallas-Ft. Worth Area

Advent Air
Matt Wikel, VP of Residential Construction, Advent Air Conditioning

Do a visual inspection of your condensing unit – this is the piece of equipment that’s outside your home. Your condensing unit contains important heat-exchange equipment required to cool your home efficiently. The condensing unit requires free and clear air flow in order to work at its best. If there is any debris blocking airflow, you are losing efficiency in your system. Be sure your air conditioner is turned off, then head outdoors.

Check that there are no branches or leaves covering your AC unit. If there are other items like plants or bushes that are near your air conditioner, they need to be trimmed back or removed. Many homeowners want to try to hide their AC unit with fencing or bushes, but this will inhibit the performance of the unit.

For best performance, you should have about 3 feet of open space surrounding your condensing unit in all directions.

Climate Experts A/C & Heating

Serving Dallas, Arlington and the Greater Dallas-Ft. Worth Area

William Montanye, Owner Climate Experts AC & Heating

Many people don’t set their thermostat to a realistic temperature. They have it set far below the recommended 78* setting. Air conditioning systems are sized for your home based on target heat load design temps of 75*. When your thermostat is set significantly below that, it will cause it to run nearly the entire day, costing you money.

To keep your home cooler, use blinds and curtains to cut down on sun infiltration.

Our last tip is to use ceiling fans to stay cool, and you will not need to set your thermostat as low. Do ceiling fans help to cool the house?  No, but they do help you feel cooler. Ceiling fans cool by evaporating tiny beads of sweat on our bodies. Think of how refreshing a breeze feels on a hot day. Just remember to turn the fans off when you leave the room. While circulating air can help reduce a stale air smell, they cool your body, not the room.

Budget Home Services Plumbing & Mechanical

Serving Houston, The Woodlands and Cypress

budget home services
Casey Hill, Vice President, Budget Home Services

It’s important to check the air temperature difference between the air supply and air output. Check the temperature of the supply air (air being pulled into the large filter intake vent) compared to the air coming out of the vents. A properly running system should have a difference of at least 14 degrees Fahrenheit between the warm air going in and the cool air coming out.

While you are measuring the temperature of the air coming out of your vents, examine the vents themselves. First, check to ensure they are open. Closing vents can make the air flow unbalanced and lead to additional stress on your HVAC system. Next, check to make sure all of your air vents are pointed toward the interior of the room, not the wall or the window.

Then take a look in the attic. If your coil, or air handler, is in the attic, make sure that there is no water in the secondary drain pan that lays underneath it. This could signify the HVAC system needs AC Repair.

Sammons Air & Heat

Serving Cypress, Katy, Spring Branch, Memorial, Galleria and Houston

Shane Sammons with Sammons Air Heat
Shane Sammons, Owner Sammons Air & Heat

A lot of homeowners will set the thermostat up to 80* when they are at work during the day, thinking this will save them money.We receive calls from customers that think there is something wrong with their HVAC when it’s set all day at 80*and their house doesn’t cool down to 70* within an hour.

It’s actually cheaper to leave it set to a lower temperature, around 76*. That way the system won’t have to overwork trying to catch up to the lower desired temperature when you get home. It will also eliminate the stagnant air smell in the home, which can happen when air isn’t circulating.

Environmental Matters HVAC

Serving Tomball and surrounding areas

Randy Braughton, Owner  Environmental Matters HVAC

Your air conditioner can more effectively cool if your home is properly insulated. Proper insulation means 10″ to 18″ inches of insulation in the attic depending on the type of insulation.

You also want to make sure there’s no outside air infiltrating the house. Make sure windows are shut all the way, and check the weather stripping around all doors. If you can see light coming in around the side or under a door, it’s not fully sealed.

The attic access door is one area that a lot of people forget. You want to make sure no air is coming in around the attic access in your home.  I recommend that homeowners have an attic tent installed by a HVAC contractor above the attic access.  An attic tent insulates the attic access door, to keep hot air from entering the home from the attic. And if your attic isn’t hot, that indicates that your duct work is leaking cold air into your attic, costing you money and lowering the cooling efficiency of your A/C.

Mr. Air Services

Serving the Greater Houston Area

air services frank givens general manager
Frank H. Gibbons III, General Manager, Mr. Air Services

Considering that your home’s air conditioning system hasn’t functioned in months the best thing is to have a professional inspect the system to find out it’s status.  After all, it’s a mechanical/electrical machine. Have you ever let a car sit idle for months then tried to run it?

Get a high tech HVAC tune-up to understand how the machine is actually performing. A high tech tune-up will include use of digital gauges that send data to a computer to be analyzed, electronic temperature probes which analyze temperature and humidity, and they’ll measure the cubic feet per minute (CFM) that your fan is circulating. This is an investment of around $85 that will likely pay for itself in energy savings alone. Plus you get peace of mind of knowing the actual condition of your A/C system.

ElectricityPlans editorial note:  Mr. Air Services LLC  is one of the companies that works with CenterPoint Energy Houston Electric to provide a free CoolSaver A/C Tune-up to residential and small business customers in the Greater Houston area. To check your eligibility, contact CenterPoint Energy Houston Electric at 866.688.2323 or go online.

Poe Air

Serving Fort Worth and surrounding areas

Gary Poe, Owner and Trane Comfort Specialist, Poe Air

Outdoor units can look clean on the surface but dirt can drastically reduce efficiency and cooling capacity as well as shortening the life of the units and components. Keep  shrubs trimmed back and debris away from outdoor units as this can cause the same issue as a dirty outdoor system.

If you have a two-story house with two HVAC systems, set the downstairs a degree or two below the upstairs.  If the upstairs is set lower it will try to cool the whole house in a losing battle, as it basically becomes the downstairs attic.

Lastly, do not make large temperature adjustments on a programmable thermostat. Set it and let it do its job.

A properly sized system cannot drop the temp in the house during the middle of a 100 degree day. Having the thermostat set at 80* when you are at work and expecting it to drop to 72* at 4:00 in the afternoon is a recipe for perspiration.

American Standard Heating & Cooling

Manufacturer of HVAC Systems

representative of American Standard
Tim Storm, Sr. Product Manager for Residential Core/Premium Outdoor Units for American Standard Heating & Cooling and Ingersoll Rand

We recommend that consumers look at the installation date of their HVAC system. While your older HVAC system may still be running, it could be costing you more than you realize. Replacing systems installed in 2006 or earlier can lead to as much as 54 percent in energy savings. So while the upfront cost of a new unit seems costly, you could see a fast return on your investment.

The other big tip is to consider a connected, programmable thermostat that lets you schedule temperature settings or make changes from anywhere. This gives you the flexibility to change plans, like spending another day on vacation, while maintaining your HVAC system’s “away” temperature settings. Some connected thermostats have the added bonus of continually monitoring your HVAC system health. The American Standard AccuLink™ Platinum 1050 Control is a wifi programmable thermostat that also lets your local dealer access the diagnostics data of your American Standard system. Your local dealer can monitor your system for any alerts and catch minor issues before they become a larger problem.

ElectricityPlans editorial note:  We agree! Wifi smart thermostats are the way to go for energy savings. Plus, if you live in Texas, there are a number of electricity plans that include a smart thermostat, like a Nest or Ecobee. These wifi thermostats can save 20% or more on the heating and cooling portion of your electricity bill.

Can I Service My HVAC System Myself?

There are basic A/C maintenance items you can take care of yourself, like changing air filters, and cleaning the registers and outside unit.  But once during the summer cooling season and again during the winter heating system, have your air conditioning and heating system serviced by a licensed company.

An A/C professional can make sure that it’s running to the best of its ability. Plus, an HVAC Tune-up will only cost you $60-$90. It’s worth it!

How Much Money Can Proper HVAC Maintenance Save?

Your cooling system accounts for 60-70 percent of your summer electric bill, according to Austin Energy.  On an annual basis, heating and cooling consumes more than 50% of the electricity used in your household. Proper scheduled maintenance of your HVAC system helps to keep it running efficiently.

Also, Austin Energy agrees with our experts — if your unit is more than 15 years old, consider replacing it with a high efficiency system. That could cut your heating and cooling costs by 20-40%.