We all make mistakes. That’s life, as they say.
But sometimes a mistake is something we can laugh off, and sometimes a mistake costs us thousands of dollars, weeks of headache, and turns half of our hair gray.
Mistakes like the ones we call “AC Repair Killers” fall into that second category.
Two things not every homeowner thinks about:
• Your HVAC equipment is almost certainly the single largest capital investment in your home, outranking all other appliances, and often even pricing your roof into second place.
• Your air conditioning probably accounts for more than half of your electric bill every month.
How much more than half?
Something like 70%, according to researchers. With that being the case, shouldn’t you do everything you can to avoid spending too much?
Because you probably are spending too much.
Worse yet, you might be dealing damage to your system, making AC Killer Mistakes that will come back to haunt you in a big way. If you are, you’re probably headed for some very upsetting conversations with a company like ours – and we want to help you avoid that!
HVAC companies like My AC Repair Orlando try really hard to give you the best advice we can. Manufacturers give you that big owner’s manual, and some of you even read them.
Is that enough?
We’re publishing this article because we think the answer is no. We think it is emphatically not enough.
So here’s our list of things you might not know you’re doing wrong.
If you like saving money, keep reading …
1. Choosing the wrong unit for your home.
We’re going to start with the biggest mistake, and hope most of you have already dodged this one. Unfortunately, if you’ve chosen a poorly matched system for your needs (or allowed one to be chosen for you), you’re probably not in a position to fix it.
But what makes a unit “wrong” for a home?
With central air units, it’s all too common for people to buy the most powerful AC unit they can afford, or the cheapest unit they can find. It’s also common to meet homeowners who’ve allowed a subpar contractor to choose their system for them, and been swindled by someone more interesting in making a large commission on a sale than on actually meeting your needs.
Here’s why too powerful is bad. We call this an “oversized” central air conditioning unit. When it’s too large, it’s not going to uniformly cool your home. Worse yet, it’s going to do the job too fast, which means the system won’t have time to properly dehumidify your air before it circulates.
Worst of all, it’s going to create what’s called “short cycling,” a dangerous issue where your air conditioning system turns on and off too frequently, which can damage the compressor over time.
(Side note: your compressor is the single most expensive component of your HVAC system, and you really don’t want it to get damaged.)
Here’s why too weak is also bad. A cheap unit will often be undersized for your home. When an AC is trying to cool a space bigger than it should be matched with, it will run constantly, at its highest level, trying hard to get the job done.
Instead, it will burn out, probably years before it should.
Here’s how you fix it. As soon as you’re financially able, replace the system with one that will do the job properly. It will hurt, but over the years of your new system’s life, you’ll more than recoup that investment with monthly savings.
And your home will be more comfortable (and quiet, and free of AC repair technicians like us) than before, too.
2. Overusing the AC system.
A good Ac repair contractor will tell you that you shouldn’t turn your system off and on all the time. A great one will tell you that you also shouldn’t leave it running hard all the time.
So what can you do? It sounds like we’ve contradicted ourselves, right?
We haven’t. Here’s why:
Your air conditioner is a big machine, and it’s meant to live a long while, but it’s not designed to never take a break. Most homeowners leave their AC running because they don’t want to walk into a hot home.
There’s a smarter solution – literally.
Most modern HVAC systems already come with a programmable thermostat, so we’d be surprised if you didn’t have one. If you don’t, invest in one. Invest in the smartest thermostat you can afford. They’re great, they’re wi-fi capable, they pair to your mobile phone, and the really good ones are intelligent and learn your schedule so they can maximize energy efficiency.
They allow zoning of your home with many systems, as well, cooling off only rooms that are in use.
If you do have a thermostat, we also wouldn’t be surprised if you’re more or less ignoring it. Most of our customers have learned the basic functionality of their thermostat and gone no deeper.
You are missing out on some real savings. Dive in and learn what a smart ‘stat can do.
3. Blocking vents and registers can lead to unneeded AC repair issues.
We just talked about zoning. That’s where you don’t cool rooms you aren’t using. That’s a great way to save a little energy, but there is a right and wrong way to do it.
The right way is with a zone-capable system.
The wrong way is by blocking or stuffing vents in unused rooms. There are situations where blocking off parts of your home could save you a few bucks, but there are a lot more where it could do the opposite.
Realistically, you’re more likely reducing the efficiency of your system when you do this.
Because your air handler (the indoor section) is part of a designed system. It knows how much cool air it has to produce and circulate, and it does exactly that. When you close off certain vents, the air doesn’t magically know to avoid going into the ducts that lead to those vents. Instead, you increase air pressure within the system. The cold air isn’t in the room, but it is right behind the vent you blocked, doing nobody any good.
When that happens your blower motor may try to compensate for the blocked ducts by forcing more air and working harder. If you don’t have well-sealed ducts, that pressure will lead to leakage, which will increase over time.
If you’re thinking of zoning your home, talk to us. We can tell you whether your system can handle a few closed vents. Better still, we can do a home energy audit and help you find other ways to increase efficiency and save money.
4. Cranking the thermostat really low to “cool down faster.”
This is perhaps the most widespread issue we see. It seems like everybody assumes that whatever number is on the thermostat is the temperature of the air the AC will blow out. By that logic, they assume, the house will cool down faster if I set it to 61 degrees – and I’ll just stop when it’s 68 degrees, which I like.
Do you do this? We bet most of you do.
Except that isn’t how air conditioners work at all. Instead, your system will work to get to the set temperature, and it will take exactly the same amount of time to get to 68. Except you’re probably going to forget to fix it, and your AC is going to work too hard to make it colder than you want, and you’ll have to set the thermostat again.
This is a really easy fix, though. Just set your thermostat to the temperature you actually like, and be patient.
Setting it lower will not makes things cool down faster.
It will damage your system.
5. Not changing your air filters – enough, or ever.
If there is a contender for the “Most Common Mistake” title over thermostat abuse, it’s filter neglect. It’s the simplest piece of owner maintenance, and somehow, 95% of our customers keep forgetting to do it.
Set an alarm on your phone’s calendar, people. It’s important.
Your air filters do the very important job of making sure the cool, comfortable air in your home is also free of particulates and pollen. When you ignore them, they fill up with dust and mold and gunk. Then, you’re suddenly dealing with:
• Escalating monthly expenses.
• Airflow issues.
• Freezing evaporator coils.
• Your system icing over, or overheating, or both.
• Poor air quality.
• Temperature issues.
• Permanent system damage.
It’s no joke. Change them monthly, or according to manufacturer instructions. If you aren’t sure how, call us. We’ll show you on our next maintenance visit, so you’ll never feel stumped again.
Speaking of preventive maintenance to prevent AC repair in Ortlando …
These mistakes can be scary, and the consequences can be expensive. Let us help you. The team here at My AC Repair Orlando is Florida’s premier HVAC repair and installation team. Our phones are always on, and we’re always ready to give you the answers you need.
Call or drop us a message today, and thanks for reading.
For most of the country, rain cools things off. In the summer, most of America is (relatively) fine with the occasional shower.
Down here in Orlando, we have a different view. The Sunshine State could just as easily have been called the Lightning State, as Florida residents know well. After all, didn’t Tampa name their hockey team after our most common spring and summer weather phenomenon?
Florida experiences tropical storms at a higher rate than the rest of the continental United States. The upshot of that is simple: lots and lots of lightning. These typically start in the spring, and they can continue throughout the summer.
Worst of all, they don’t really cool things down. Instead, they just make it intensely humid, which raises the heat index and makes the outside practically unbearable. During those soupy, muggy days and nights, most Orlando residents retreat into that loveliest of modern amenities: air conditioning.
Willis Haviland Carrier, thank you for your contributions.
What do storms and your AC have to do with one another?
We get a lot of calls during storm season. Sometimes, it’s for repairs on HVAC systems that have been damaged, but more often, it’s to ask a simple question. It’s one we have to answer on a weekly basis, at least, when lightning is searing the skies overhead.
The question is this:
“Can I run my AC during this storm?”
Rain and lightning remind people that electricity and water don’t mix. They’re mostly concerned about their HVAC system and the lightning having a sort of hairdryer-in-the-sink mishap.
Breathe easy. In this article, we’ll explain what the real risks are, and exactly when you should and should not be using your air conditioner.
First, if it’s just raining, even heavy rain, go ahead and run your air conditioner. Any AC repair company in Florida will be able to tell you that, barring unusually dangerous weather, there is absolutely nothing to be concerned about. No amount of rain should pose any risk to you, your family, or your outside condenser unit.
You see, when engineers decided that, in order to deal with the noise, they’d better keep those condensers outdoors, they built them to survive all kinds of weather. Like a good postman, your HVAC unit is built to survive.
Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night shall stay your brave condenser from the steadfast completion of its cooling duties.
However, when we get into thunderstorms, there are a few precautions we’ll discuss.
Should I worry about flooding?
Flooding can be problematic. If it rains heavy enough that your home experiences flooding, water can collect and damage your AC. If you’re in an area that’s under a credible flood warning – and you’ll know, they’ll tell you! – you have got to do yourself a favor and shut your system off.
If you’re in a flood prone area, like a good chunk of Florida happens to be, you might want to consider asking your HVAC installation and maintenance company whether you can elevate your outside unit. It’s a great option for homeowners who want to avoid costly repairs.
Should I worry about rain?
Whether it’s a downpour or just a sprinkling, rain should never be a risk factor all by itself. The outside unit is built to withstand searing summer heat, snow, wind, and all manner of elemental dangers.
If, however, you’re a worrier, there are weatherproof covers you can purchase that provide an additional layer of protection for your equipment. We never scoff at that kind of thing. After all, your air conditioner costs a great deal of money.
Between the prices of air conditioning maintenance and the staggering price tag on a new AC installation, we can completely understand why you’d want to take every precaution. Our job is to make sure you stay cool and comfortable, at reasonable prices, all the time.
If I’ve got surge protectors, am I safe?
If you’re seeing frequent flashes of lightning, and you’re (very naturally) worried about your HVAC equipment, you might wonder whether it would survive a lightning strike.
It’s a good idea to ensure that all of your heating and cooling system components are plugged into surge protectors. They’re an investment designed for that specific occurrence, and they can save you a great deal of money in the event of a strike.
AC surge protectors are your equipment’s best line of defense against outages, shortages, and lightning strikes. They absorb the electrical damage so that your equipment doesn’t have to, and then they redirect the energy to the ground.
In addition to protecting your equipment, surge protectors are there to protect you and your home and family.
AC Repair Orlando: A note on surge protectors and power strips.
Most surge protectors look just a like power strip, which may lead to many homeowners confusing the two. In fact, some manufacturers even market power strips as surge protectors.
They are NOT the same thing. This is very important. A power strip is essentially a glorified extension cord. It doesn’t provide any additional protection.
Here’s how you tell the two apart. A power strip:
On the other hand, a surge protector, while it may look like a power strip:
Surge protectors are aimed at electronics – televisions, networking gear, computers, and HVAC equipment.
When it comes to air conditioning, surge protectors are only a first step.
What you want for HVAC equipment is a high-end protection, able to absorb a very large amount of energy. Installing industrial grade surge protectors is a great start, but given that you live in Florida, the Lightning State, it may not be enough. In the event that lightning strikes a unit while it is operating, a surge protector may not be enough to defend the system’s controls against corruption or damage.
What can happen if lightning strikes my air conditioner?
A lightning strike is immensely powerful. It briefly heats the air around it up to five times hotter than the sun. They travel around two hundred million miles per hour. Each bolt can contain up to one billion volts of electricity. By way of comparison, your house current is running at about a hundred and ten volts.
That’s why a surge protector isn’t a cure-all. What you want to do is ensure that your house is properly grounded. That can be accomplished by using a lightning protection system. That will use lightning rods, conductors, and ground rods in a system around your home that will “catch” the lightning and redirect it harmlessly into the ground rather than through your home’s circuits.
Of course, even these systems aren’t 100% effective.
So, if you’re trapped in your home on a hot, humid Florida night, watching lightning rip across the sky, we’ve got some bad news for you:
The safest option is to turn your air conditioner off until the lightning and thunder have moved out of your area. If it’sjust rain, you’re fine, but when it comes to lightning, there are unavoidable risks to running that air conditioner.
Lightning can render your air conditioner completely unusable in a number of ways:
All of that and more can come out of a single lightning strike, and in worst-case scenarios, your entire HVAC system may need replacing.
How do I know when it’s safe and when it’s dangerous?
While we hate to be the bearer of bad news, we can’t stress enough that running your air conditioner during a thunderstorm is dangerous.
In Florida, March through June tend to be the peak of thunderstorm weather, but they can pop up almost anytime, bringing all the dangers we’ve discussed in this article. Long before breakers trip and surge protectors cut things off, your system could get walloped with billions of unwanted joules of electricity. The havoc wreaked therein is devastating, so of course you’d want to know how to avoid the risk.
Here’s the rule of thumb we employ, and it’s an easy one: If you can hear thunder, you should turn your AC off. Period. If you are within earshot of thunder, that means you are within striking distance of a lightning bolt. If you play the childhood game of counting the seconds between lightning and thunder, and you determine the storm is several miles away, that does not make you safe. Lightning bolts can strike as far as ten milesoutside of the storm area, in areas most people would consider safe.
So, to remain truly safe, instead of truly sorry, we advise waiting until all you hear is falling rain before kicking the air conditioning on. This way, you don’t have to call your AC repair Orlando specialists to come out and assess the damage once the sun’s come out again.
Michael Haines is a veteran A/C contractor and founder of the largest and oldest e-commerce site in the heating and air conditioning industry. His HVAC websites have served 10's of thousands of customers.