Keep house cool, costs down with air conditioner checkup

CUT YOUR UTILITY BILLS

June 05, 1993|By James Dulley | James Dulley,Contributing Writer

Q: My central air conditioner is getting older, but I can't afford a new one. What simple maintenance and improvements can I make to cut my electric bills?

A: A simple do-it-yourself maintenance checkup can keep your electric bills as low as possible and avoid unnecessary repair calls. You can also make some simple improvements to your air conditioner to make it more efficient and improve the summertime comfort in your home. First, shut off the electricity to the air conditioner at the circuit breaker or fuse box. Go outdoors and remove the sheet-metal housing. It is usually held on by a few screws. Clean out any debris. With a hose, spray any dirt off the condenser coils.

If some of the condenser fins are bent over, carefully straighten them with the tip of a sharp knife. You can buy an inexpensive fin comb designed for straightening bent fins. Replace the sheet-metal cover.

With the power still off, remove the four or six screws holding thesheet-metal side on the indoor blower unit. This provides access to the evaporator coils. Clean them gently with your vacuum cleaner brush. If you have a heat pump like mine, with the coils on the bottom, you can reach the other side from the electronic air cleaner access door.

If your model has a blower belt, it should flex about 1/2 inch in the center. A faster blower speed is often recommended for air conditioning. With a belt drive, you simply adjust the pulley diameters. For a direct-drive blower, attach the wires to the higher-speed motor terminals.

Do a simple thermostat maintenance checkup. Gradually set it lower until the compressor comes on. If the room temperature is just 3 degrees cooler than you need, your air-conditioning costs can be 10 percent higher. You should install a smart computerized thermostat with many possible schedules. It can pay back its cost in less than one summer and improve your comfort year-round.

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