How do high temperatures outdoors affect my air conditioner performance?

How Do Extremely Hot Days Affect My Home’s Air Conditioner?

Imagine, if you will, you are working in the yard on a 95-degree day in Westerville, Ohio. Did it feel like you had to exert more energy to get the job done because of the high heat and excess humidity? Of course it did!

The same is true for your home’s air conditioning equipment. Heat, humidity and airflow greatly affect how hard your air conditioner operates.

How HEAT Affects Your AC Equipment

The modern air conditioner is basically a heat transfer system, 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 very hot days, that means your home’s AC equipment has to work extra hard. 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. That makes it much tougher for the AC unit to release the 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.

How HUMIDITY Affects Your AC Equipment

In addition to the temperature, humidity plays a huge role in how well your AC system performs on a hot summer day. A high level of humidity means the air conditioner must work that much harder to get rid of the moist, clammy 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.

How AIRFLOW Affects Your AC Equipment

Airflow is another factor that determines how efficiently your air conditioner works. The AC’s performance is dependent 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 very closed fenced area. At least three sides of the unit needs to be unimpeded. The blocked airflow can result in refrigerant pressures in your AC unit to be much higher, and the equipment to run much hotter than it’s originally designed for.

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 EQUIPMENT Condition Affects Your AC Unit

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.

NEWARK  740.345.6639 • COLUMBUS 614.238.6689 • DUBLIN 614.545.8939 • REYNOLDSBURG 614.365.1579 • WESTERVILLE 614.381.1540 • GROVE CITY 614.595.3098 • ZANESVILLE 740.454.2420

Dor-Mar…Your Climate Hero!

*Please note: neither the Centers for Disease Control(CDC), the World Health Organization (WHO), nor the manufacturer of our UV-C Devices have officially announced whether UV-C kills the current strain of Corona Virus (COVID-19). We urge you to err on the side of caution until we have a definitive answer, and take other measures to prevent the acquisition or spread of this virus.

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