When your thermostat is cranked down but your home isn't getting any cooler, most people head straight to their outdoor air conditioning unit to try to find the problem. However, that innocent gray box might not be the main culprit. Here are two air conditioning mistakes you might be making right now, and how they could damage your entire HVAC system:
1: Ignoring Your Furnace
As the days get longer and warmer, people tend to care less and less about their furnace. By the time summer rolls around, you might feel like the HVAC responsibilities fall squarely on your air conditioner's shoulders—giving your furnace a break. However, if you have a typical split system, your furnace continues to act as an integral part of your air conditioning system; even on the hottest days of the year.
Traditional HVAC systems contain an air return, where the warm air inside of your house is moved to your furnace, where it blows over an evaporator coil. Refrigerant is continuously pumped from your outdoor AC unit to this evaporator coil, which pulls heat out of the air. As warm air is pumped outside through your air conditioning unit, cool air is distributed through your house by the air handler inside your furnace. However, none of this can happen if any of these issues are present in your heater:
- Dirty Cooling Coils: Over time, the cooling coils inside of your furnace can become dirty, which reduces their ability to cool air brought in by your air conditioner.
- Clogged Air Filters: Your air return filter isn't the only one that matters. If you neglect your furnace filter, it can impact the air pressures between the evaporator coils and your air conditioner, causing your AC unit to freeze over.
- Sizing Differences: Split systems rely on equal sizing of your air conditioner and furnace to work properly. If your air handler isn't large enough to accommodate the air your AC unit delivers, your system won't work to full capacity.
Before you turn on your air conditioner in the summer, hire a professional from an HVAC company, such as Bishop Plumbing, Heating and Cooling, to inspect your entire HVAC system, including your furnace.
2: Letting Your Landscaping Run Wild
Ah summer… When you aren't busy mowing your lawn or weeding those flowerbeds, you might be trying to disguise utility boxes, power poles, and unsightly air conditioning units. Unfortunately, letting your landscaping run wild can have negative consequences on your indoor climate. Here are a few AC unit villains you should be aware of:
- Nearby Bushes: Your air conditioning unit relies on a steady stream of incoming air to do its job. Unfortunately, if dense shrubbery or bushes block the airflow around your unit, your system might not be able to breathe like it should.
- Falling Branches and Leaves: Nearby trees might provide shade for your unit, but they might also allow rogue leaves and branches to make their way into your system. Unfortunately, small sticks can act as projectiles inside of your unit, damaging internal components. Leaves can get stuck in the fins surrounding your air conditioner, reducing airflow.
- Climbing Plants: Those vines might seem like a nice way to cover up your system, but they can strangle your air conditioning unit. In addition to bending metal components and weaving through intricate electrical wiring, climbing plants like ivy can attract pests that can damage your AC system.
To stay on the safe side, experts recommend against planting climbing plants around your air conditioner and keeping shrubs and grasses 2 to 3 feet away from the base of your unit. Because tree branches can dry out and pose a fire hazard, plant trees at least 30 feet from your house, and keep branches at least 6 feet off of the ground. In addition to helping you to protect your home, planting trees away from your unit will also preserve your air conditioner.
Understanding how to avoid common HVAC errors might help you to keep your home comfortable all year long.