Sometimes even the best thermostat can only help so much. You can choose energy efficient temperatures and follow the Leaf every day, but if your ducts are leaking or your filters are clogged, you won’t get the energy savings you were hoping for this summer.
So this week we asked our HVAC advisors - the amazing heating and cooling professionals who were invaluable in helping to create Nest - to tell us what you can do to make sure your cooling system is helping you save energy:
1. Change your filter - Changing the filter is the simplest, most inexpensive thing you can do to make sure your system is running efficiently. John Beagan of HVAC Automation in Sharon, MA, explains why a clogged filter can add 5-10% to your cooling bills.
“If you have dirty, blocked filters, you won’t get any airflow to air condition the house. That’s not good for your energy bill because your compressor will be running continually trying to get the house cool. And anytime air can’t move through your ducts you run the chance of freezing your coils. If that happens, you’ll end up with a big block of ice on your air conditioner.
“I recommend changing the filter every year and checking semi-annually - pets and open windows and doors can contribute to getting it dirty. Just take it out and put it up to a light. It starts off white, so if you can see through it it’s fine, but if there’s a problem, you’ll know it.”
2. Make sure your vents are open and unblocked - Russ Donnici of Mechanical Air Service in San Jose, CA knows that sometimes people close some vents in the winter to avoid heating rooms that no one’s in, but come summertime it’s important to keep the air flowing.
“Sometimes people close their registers to try to divert heat. But in cooling mode, it’s more important to keep the air moving. Any time you restrict the airflow there’s the possibility of the cooling coil freezing and damaging your compressor. You also want to make sure you don’t have any furniture obstructing any vents.”
And while you’re looking at your vents, keep an eye out for a big accumulation of dirt and dust. Josh Kahn of Kahn Mechanical in Dallas, TX says that can be a sign of a bigger problem with your system.
“Often the return air grille will collect dust, and can simply be vacuumed clean. However, if you see excessive dust and dirt build up on your supply grilles, there’s a combination of poor airflow and duct leakage.”
3. Inspect your drain - Water condenses on your air conditioner and drains down out of it, but John Beagan knows that little drain can cause a lot of problems.
“You might want to inspect your drain. Open up the unit, get an empty milk jug and fill it with water, then pour a little water in the pan. Watch as it drains out to make sure that line isn’t clogged.
“I’ve had a few houses where they put the AC unit up in the attic and the attic isn’t insulated. Several times there’s a pinch in the drainage tube and the line freezes in the winter and cracks. Then people are wondering why there’s a wet spot in the ceiling.”
So this summer, make sure your filters are clean, your vents are open and your drain is draining. And if you need help to tune-up your air conditioner, there’s a Nest Certified Professional near you. Find them here.