Operating AC for Peak Efficiency

Tip:  Don’t Use or Buy More Cooling Capacity Than You Need

Overcooling your home can be expensive and waste energy.  Don’t use or buy more cooling capacity than you actually need.  Select an air conditioning unit with the lowest suitable capacity and highest efficiency.  An oversized air conditioner can leave rooms cold and clammy because it does not run long enough to dehumidify the air.  Oversized air conditioners also have a tendency to turn themselves on and off more frequently than properly sized units.

Tip: Keep the Equipment Clean

Ensure good air flow by keeping your condensing unit or heat pump free of debris.  These pieces of equipment are located outdoors and require significant air flow to properly function.  Clean the equipment at least once per year and regularly check to make sure leaves, grass and other debris are not creating blockage.

Tip:  Change Your Air Filter Regularly

Changing your air filter regularly is a simple, inexpensive way to keep your air conditioning unit running at peak efficiency.  The filter is located in your furnace, air handler or attached ducting.  This filter helps keep dust and other debris from sticking to the blower and air conditioning coils inside your home’s heat pump, air conditioner or furnace.  A dirty filter can block the flow of air, increasing operating costs and damaging the equipment.  Change your filter as often as recommended by the manufacturer.

Tip: Have the Indoor Coil Cleaned

The evaporator coil is located on the top or side of your furnace, and if you have an air handler, it is located inside the air handler.  Air flows across the coil to be cooled during the summer.  When the air conditioning is on, water collects on the coil.  The moisture on the coil can attract dirt, mold and other contaminants.  A dirty indoor coil can be unhealthy, wastes energy and cuts the capacity of the cooling equipment.  The coil should be cleaned every two to three years.  It is sometimes necessary to cut into the ductwork to reach the coil, so it is advisable to hire a contractor to perform this maintenance for you.

Tip: Properly Match Your Condensing Unit/Heat Pump to Your Evaporator Coil

Your air-conditioning or heat pump system consists of two main parts: an indoor evaporator coil and an outdoor condensing unit/heat pump. These two parts are specifically designed to work together as a coordinated “team” to provide top performance and maximum efficiency and comfort.

If you install a new high-efficiency condensing unit, but don’t include a new, equally efficient and properly matched evaporator coil, you could end up with an inefficient or dysfunctional system.  Check with a heating and air conditioning professional or call our technical support line at (800) 865-5931 to determine if your evaporator coil is properly matched to your condensing unit/heat pump.

Tip:  Shade the Outside Condensing Unit or Heat Pump

Condensers and heat pumps that sit in a shady area use up to ten percent less electricity than those in direct sunlight.

Tip:  Install a

Programmable Thermostat

Programmable thermostats

are recommended to help keep your energy bills low.  You can program these thermostats to automatically change temperature settings at night or when you are not at home.  Energy bills can be dramatically lowered by not running the air conditioner unnecessarily.

Tip:  Set Your Thermostat at 78 Degrees During the Summer

Keep your energy bills low by setting your thermostat no lower than 78 degrees during the summer.  You will still enjoy the comforts of air conditioning while not absorbing the high costs for energy consumption.  For each degree below that economy setting, your energy bills will creep up by eight percent on average.  That means, if you set the thermostat at 72 degrees, it’s costing 48 percent more to run!

Tip: Install Ceiling Fans to Help Circulate Cool Air in the Home

The thermostat reads the temperature in your home, but what about the wind chill factor?  Running a fan will help stir up the air in your home and make it feel 10 degrees cooler.  Ceiling fans work the best when they run in a counter-clockwise direction.  This causes them to blow air downward.

Tip:  Check Your Ductwork

Sealing ductwork can help reduce energy consumption by 10 to 30 percent.  Have a contractor inspect your ductwork for leaks.  Pay extra attention to the ductwork that runs through the attic, basement or other un-cooled spaces in your home.  Make sure the ductwork in these areas is properly insulated.

Tip:  Keep Your Doors and Windows Shut and Well Sealed

Do-it-yourself weather stripping for doors and caulking for windows is cheap and easy to install.  It pays to keep your house from leaking out cold air.

Tip:  Don’t Open Your Windows When the AC is Off

When we think of air conditioning, we think primarily of cooling. But a major comfort benefit besides cooling that air conditioning provides is dehumidification – removing moisture from the air. When the air is nice and dry in the summer, we feel comfortable. When the air is too humid, we feel clammy and uncomfortable. Removing moisture from the home’s air then is a major function of air conditioning.

Understanding how your air conditioner does this will help you to operate it for maximum efficiency and comfort.  When you first decide to turn on your air conditioning and it is hot and humid, and the home’s windows are open, there is a lot of moisture (water) in the air. When you close the windows and turn on the central air conditioning, the air conditioner will use about ½ of its energy initially to remove that moisture from the air while it cools. Because there is so much water in the air to remove at the start, the air conditioner will take longer to cool the house down, with only half of its energy going towards cooling.

However, after the air conditioner runs for a few hours, the majority of the moisture will be removed. At this point, the air conditioner can cool much more quickly, as well as run for shorter times to maintain that cool temperature.

For best use then, keep your windows closed in between air conditioning usage if you think you will need to use the air conditioning again soon. For example, if at the end of the day you were thinking of opening the windows for the night, but will need to turn on the air conditioning again in the morning, you might want to keep the windows closed and the AC on at night, too. Keeping the home closed once it has been dehumidified will mean the air conditioning can use most of its energy to cool the home, which will make it work faster as well as save money on electrical usage.

About Refrigerant


Inside air conditioning systems is liquid/gas refrigerant.
There are two types of this refrigerant available for use,
R-22 (more commonly known by its brand name Freon),
and a new alternative R-410A.  Refrigerant is a substance which
absorbs heat by changing states (evaporating) from liquid to gas. It releases heat by changing
states (condensing) from gas back to liquid.
An air conditioning system does not consume refrigerant, but reuses it.
As long as there are no leaks in the refrigerant circuit, there is no need to ever add more
refrigerant to an air conditioning system.

Although R-22 is an effective refrigerant, if it is released into the atmosphere it can
contribute to the depletion of the Earth’s ozone layer.
The EPA has mandated the phasing out the use of R-22.
It is being replaced by the now-available R-410A.

As of 2010, manufacturer’s are required to make all new air conditioners with R-410A.
Units using R-22 are still available for sale. However, they no longer are sold containing
refrigerant, and will require your technician to fully charge the system after installation.
R-22 refrigerant is becoming increasingly expensive, and at the current and expected
future cost of R-22, it is often more cost effective to install equipment containing the new R-410A.
By 2020, R-22 will no longer be manufactured, but will still be recycled and available for sale.

  • R-22 will no longer be manufactured by 2020, but will be recycled and available for sale
    indefinitely beyond then.
  • Your system will not require R-22 to be added in the future if it doesn’t have leaks and you
    keep it properly serviced.

Handling Refrigerant – What You Can Do

As of 1993, R-22 refrigerant can only be handled by technicians who are EPA certified.

While 90 percent of an air conditioning installation can be performed by the average homeowner, if the equipment uses R-22 refrigerant, part of the installation requires the work of an EPA-certified technician.  This is mandated by federal law.

Any maintenance, service, repair, or disposal of equipment that could be reasonably expected to release R-22 refrigerants into the atmosphere by violating the integrity of the refrigerant circuit must be handled by an EPA-certified technician.

Only an EPA-certified technician can attach and detach hoses and gauges from your R-22 condensing unit to measure pressure within the appliance.   Only an EPA-certified technician can add or remove R-22 refrigerant from the system.  To service the compressor of a condensing unit, the refrigerant must first be captured and then recycled by an EPA-certified technician.

Activities such as painting the appliance, re-wiring an external electrical circuit, replacing insulation on a length of pipe, or tightening nuts and bolts on the appliance are not reasonably expected to violate the integrity of the refrigerant circuit and can be performed by a homeowner.

Need a contractor?  We’ll help you get one.

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for details on our Contractor Assistance Program.

ac install

When installing central air, an EPA-certified technician will:

  • Pull vacuum on refrigerant lines with vacuum pump.
  • Release refrigerant into system, start up, and balance pressures.


It is recommended that you allow a skilled contractor to also:

  • Solder the copper refrigerant line connection(already mounted in place and connected by homeowner).
  • Connect high voltage wiring to main home circuit panel (wiring from circuit panel to condenser may be installed by homeowner).

For more information on installing central air and what aspects of the installation the average homeowner can and can’t perform, please click here

Handling Refrigerants Responsibly

(From the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Web site)

Along with prohibiting the production of ozone-depleting refrigerants, the Clean Air Act mandates the use of common sense in handling refrigerants. By containing and using refrigerants responsibly — that is by recovering, recycling, reclaiming, and reducing leaks — their ozone depletion and global warming consequences are minimized. The Clean Air Act outlines specific refrigerant containment and management practices for HVAC manufacturers, distributors, dealers and technicians. Properly installed home comfort systems rarely develop refrigerant leaks, and with proper servicing, a system using R-22, R-410A or another refrigerant will minimize its impact on the environment. While EPA does not mandate repairing or replacing small systems because of leaks, system leaks can not only harm the environment, but also result in increased maintenance costs.

One important thing a homeowner can do for the environment, regardless of the refrigerant used, is to select a reputable dealer that employs service technicians who are EPA-certified to handle refrigerants. Technicians often call this certification “Section 608 certification,” referring to the part of the Clean Air Act that requires minimizing releases of ozone-depleting chemicals from HVAC equipment.

To learn more on the subject from the United States Environmental Protection Agency, click here

Selecting Air Conditioner or Heat Pump Efficiency

As much as half of your annual utility bills can be spent on heating and cooling your home. You can save money on your electric bills while enjoying the same level of comfort by selecting an air conditioner or heat pump with a high efficiency rating.

Air conditioners and heat pumps have an efficiency rating called SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio). The higher the SEER number, the more electrically efficient the unit is. Higher efficiency air conditioners and heat pumps produce the same amount of cooling as lower efficiency units of the same size, while saving you money by using less electricity.

If you currently have an air conditioner or heat pump and would like to know what efficiency SEER you have, you can use this Efficiency Estimator Tool to find out.

We have several different SEER ratings for you to select from for your air conditioner or heat pump, from 13 SEER up to 18 SEER. The higher the SEER, the higher the initial investment cost of the equipment, but the lower the operating cost. Which SEER unit you decide to install is up to you. To help you select, you can use our Operating Cost Calculator to see how much you might save in operating costs by comparing different SEER units for your particular home.

All air conditioners and heat pumps are shipped from the factory with an EnergyGuide sticker which lists the official SEER rating. This rating is in accordance with standard US government testing.

Higher efficiency units may be ENERGY STAR® qualified. If a product has earned the ENERGY STAR, they meet strict energy efficiency guidelines set by the EPA and US Department of Energy. These products offer the same level of performance and features, and may be able to reduce utility bills due to lower energy consumption.