The temperature outside is 97 degrees. Try to imagine working outside in that heat and humidity (some of us have to!). Do you think the average New Albany Ohio homeowner doing outside work has to exert more energy because of the extreme heat and oppressive humidity? The answer is obvious. Of course you would use extra energy. You would be working overtime to stay cool, staying hydrated, and pacing yourself.
The same is true for your home’s central air conditioner. Several things can greatly affect how hard your air conditioner operates, including heat, humidity and airflow.
How HEAT Affects Your AC Equipment
The modern air conditioner, on the most basic level, is a system to transfer heat, with two heat exchangers working with heat in two different environments.
First, the system captures heat/energy from the warm air inside your home and sends it to the condensing unit outside.
Second, the system must release that heat to the already-hot outside air.
On extremely hot days, that means your home’s AC equipment has to work overtime. Not only is there more heat coming into the home via the sun through the windows, or hot air coming through leaky windows or doors, which it must remove, but the outdoor air is hotter as well. That makes it much tougher for the AC unit to release that heat outdoors.
When it’s hot outside, it’s much more difficult to make the indoor environment cooler than the outdoors. So your air conditioner has to work much harder to make it happen. And the bigger the temperature difference between the outdoors and the desired temperature indoors, the harder the AC unit has to work.
It’s much easier to release heat from indoors to the outdoors when the temperature is 80 degrees, versus when it’s 95 degrees. Did you know most systems can only cool the indoor air by about 20 degrees, depending on the age of the unit, how well the home is insulated, the efficiency of the unit, the ‘fitness’ of the equipment, and several other factors.
How HUMIDITY Can Affect the AC Equipment
In addition to the temperature, humidity plays a massive role in how well your AC system performs on the hottest days in the summer. A high level of humidity means the air conditioner must work that much harder to get rid of the moist, muggy air. If your air conditioner doesn’t have the cooling capacity to handle it, you’ll see (and feel) the results… like sweating, clammy skin, or frizzed up hair. Not a great feeling.
Your Air Conditioner is Affected by AIRFLOW, too
Airflow is another factor that determines how efficiently your air conditioner works. The AC’s performance depends on proper air circulation throughout the system. If the air is blocked or interrupted in some fashion, it causes the AC unit to work even harder to provide the level of cooling you desire. Keep an eye out for some commons ways the airflow of your air conditioner can be interrupted.
Overgrown plants and/or shrubbery too close to the outdoor condenser is a common source of impeded airflow. Be sure to check during the course of the entire cooling season to ensure the plants aren’t getting too close to the AC unit. We recommend a clear space of 12 inches or more around the AC unit.
Never locate an AC unit in an enclosed space, like under a deck or inside a tightly enclosed fenced area. At least three sides of the unit needs to be unimpeded. Blocking the airflow can result in refrigerant pressures in your AC unit to be much higher, and cause the equipment to run much hotter than it’s originally designed for, reducing its useful lifespan.
Another issue with poor airflow is higher temperatures of the lubricating oil inside the compressor, which could cause a breakdown of the oil. Unlike your car, where the oil is changed frequently to minimize engine wear and tear, the oil in an AC unit is never changed, and is designed to last for the entire life of the unit, sometimes as long as 15-20 years. If the equipment is maintained and operating with adequate airflow, the oil should remain “healthy.”
Sometimes, if the furnace blower motor in your home isn’t functioning, that will cause the ultimately impediment to airflow. If the air isn’t circulating in your home by that blower motor fan, it can’t release the cool and carry the heat back to the outdoors. Usually, the symptom of this is an iced over return line on your outdoor AC compressor unit, and no cold air (or ANY air blowing) out of your registers.
To check if you have an airflow issue around the AC unit outdoors, check it with a simple thermometer (like the digital cooking thermometer you can get at a big box store). Run your air conditioner on a calm day (wind can cause an errant reading), check the air temperature within an inch or two of the inlet. The temperature should match the air 20 feet away. If the air entering the AC unit is higher, then you probably have a recirculating problem.
How the AC is Affected by the Condition of the EQUIPMENT
Normally, you shouldn’t have to worry about wear and tear on your AC equipment during hot weather, as it’s designed to handle it, assuming the AC unit has been well maintained and is operating a top performance levels.
Two issues – dirty condenser coils, and hot weather – is when you get the worst wear and tear on your air conditioning equipment. That could cause the internal operating pressures and temperatures to exceed – by far – normal operating limits. If the equipment operates as that extreme for too long, the oil will overheat. Burned oil is not a very good lubricant, and turns acidic. Ultimately the compressor will not be able to run.
It’s simple enough to clean your coil, with a garden hose, a can of coil cleaner from the big box store, and a gentle brush. Check YouTube for how-to videos, or better yet, give us a call to service your air conditioner properly.
If it’s time to upgrade your HVAC equipment, be sure to get the new unit sized properly for your home. Bigger is not always better, but often new construction grade equipment is of lower capacity and quality to do the job for very long. Too big, and it won’t effectively remove moisture from the air because it doesn’t run as much… not allowing it enough time to dehumidify the home.
About Dor-Mar Heating & Air Conditioning
In continuous operation since 1962, our expertise goes beyond just the mechanicals of your HVAC system. We’re pretty handy when it comes to ductwork and system-wide maintenance as well. For top-notch service keeping your home’s heating and cooling system clean and your family breathing clean, filtered air, contact Dor-Mar today.
Our team offers a wide array of routine maintenance and emergency services for your heating and cooling system, allowing your family to breathe fresh, safe, clean air and be comfortable year-round. We also offer a number of add-ons to your HVAC equipment that can improve your home’s IAQ, such as electrostatic air filters, whole-house humidifiers, duct cleaning, Ultraviolet-C lighting systems, and more.
Schedule an appointment for HVAC system troubleshooting or maintenance with us today by using our online contact form, or call one of our seven neighborhood offices listed below. We pride ourselves on our customer-focused service, and our reviews show it.
Dor-Mar…Your Climate Hero!