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Consumer Reports' tips to improve your AC's efficiency during summer heat

Posted at 1:19 PM, Jul 27, 2021

(CONSUMER REPORTS/WTVF) — Some parts of the country are experiencing record-high temperatures with no cool down in sight. Nashville could even hit 100 degrees for the first time in nine years this week.

If your air conditioner is struggling to keep things cool, Consumer Reports has some tips to help – even when Mother Nature turns up the heat.

Consumer Reports says if your window or central AC isn’t cooling like it used to, there are a few fixes you can do yourself while waiting for your repairman and they might even fix the issue. First, start with the air filter.

“A dirty filter is a common problem for window and central ACs. It restricts the air flow, which reduces the AC’s ability to cool the room,” said Consumer Reports engineer Chris Reagan.

Clean it or replace it yourself, no need for a service call.

Window units typically have a reusable filter that you’ll need to vacuum gently and then wash with soap and water about once a month during peak periods. For central ACs, check the manual to see how often yours needs replacing.

You’ll most likely need to replace your filters more often if you have pets because their hair can clog up the filters faster.

Another way to maximize efficiency, says CR, is to use weather stripping around window units. This keeps the cool from escaping outside and warm air sneaking in.

Location can also affect a window AC. It has to work harder if it’s placed in a very sunny spot. Keep your shades and curtains closed during the day to keep the sun from adding extra heat to your house.

Also, if the temperature seems off with your central AC, make sure the thermostat isn’t exposed to direct sunlight, which may cause it to register the wrong temperature.

“You also want to be sure that your AC has enough cooling capacitor or power. Take a look at the room it’s going to be in. If your unit is too small for your space, it will never keep up, especially on those super-hot days. On the other hand, if your unit is too large, it might cycle too quickly and not dry out the air and leave your space a little humid,” said Reagan.

If none of these moves work, compare the cost of a repair visit with a new window unit. If your air conditioner is more than eight years old, it’s probably time to replace it. For central AC’s it may be worth the fix, says CR. Installing a brand-new central AC can cost thousands. However, in its member surveys, CR found the median price paid to repair a broken system was only $250.

Click here to read Consumer Reports' AC buying guide.