If the summer temperatures are extreme, the AC system may encounter problems. Many modern AC systems are designed to work with an external temperature of 100ºF or less. But, when the temperature creeps above that point, the system may fail and consume more energy. In this article, we will look at why this happens and what you can do to mitigate the risks.

What Happens When the AC System Runs Too High?

When the external temperatures are too high, the AC system is forced to work at maximum capacity to compensate. The internal temperatures may remain at 78ºF or 80ºF depending on the thermostat settings. Some people may try to deal with the heat by lowering the thermostat. But, this forces the system to work much harder and the indoor temperature is unlikely to change.

When the summer temperatures are higher, many people in the area will start to lower their thermostats at the same time. In an attempt to cool their homes, they use more energy, and in extreme cases, this could even cause a power outage. Using an AC system in this way will degrade the energy efficiency leading to up to a 50% increase in energy bills. To avoid these problems, set the thermostat to 78ºF when you’re at home and raise it to 82ºF when you leave.

An AC system represents a significant investment in home comfort and it makes good financial sense to protect it from damage. If the equipment is overworking for a long period, the first thing that will happen is that the air filters will clog faster than expected. This will inhibit the airflow and cause the AC system to work even harder to compensate.

Overworked equipment is more likely to fail, damage can be caused to key components such as the compressor and these are expensive to repair or replace. Even the lifespan of the system can be compromised leading to an earlier than expected system replacement.

What Can I Do to Prevent These Problems?

The most important task that anyone can perform is to regularly change the air filters in the AC system. This will ensure that the filter is free of debris that could overwork the system. It’s also a good idea to clean the exterior fans regularly using a long-handled brush. The external unit can be cooled down by around 10% with a hose or lawn sprinkler to lower the freon temperatures. Some aging AC systems may not survive harsher weather conditions and they tend to consume more energy. If you have an AC system that’s 12 years old or even older, it may be time to consider an upgrade. The latest models are packed with features and they have improved energy efficiency to lower your cooling bills.

What is the Optimal AC Temperature for Summer?

When the weather turns hotter, it’s tempting to reach for the thermostat. We want to maintain a cooler temperature in our homes, but this can be expensive. But, it is possible to stay cool without damaging the equipment and driving the energy bills. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, the optimal AC temperature should be 78ºF during the summer. For many people, this may seem too high to maintain a reasonable level of comfort, but this isn’t necessarily the case.

Let’s take a look at four proven tips that can help:

1.   Install a Programmable or Smart Thermostat

When the home is empty during the day, you may consider turning off the AC completely. But, this can cause other problems and it’s certainly not an option if you have pets at home. It’s a better strategy to raise the temperature by 7ºF to 10ºF to save energy and money.

Keeping a home at 85ºF for around 8 hours per day during peak times can save 5-15% on cooling costs. This is hard to do with an older time thermostat that doesn’t have any programmable features. Installing a programmable or even a smart thermostat can solve this problem. The thermostat can be programmed in advance or in the case of a smart thermostat remotely in real time via a Wifi link to your preferred mobile device. The AC system can be set to turn on just before you return to ensure that it’s cooler upon your arrival.

2.   Use Ceiling Fans

Many homes have ceiling fans, but they tend to be overlooked after an AC system is installed. This is unfortunate because they can be used to move the treated air around to create a “wind chill” effect that makes the room feel cooler. Running a ceiling fan in a clockwise direction can make the room feel 3ºF or 4ºF cooler. Ceiling fans are less expensive to run than lowering the thermostat temperature by the same margin. So, if you were to follow the Department of Energy guidelines of 78ºF, the fans would make the room feel like 73ºF or 74ºF.

3.   Creating Shade

When sunlight streams into a room through the windows it heats up the room. This residual heat can build up in soft furnishings and it can persist for a long time after the sun has gone down. This heat buildup has to be overcome when the AC system is used to cool that room down. So, the system will work harder for longer and overworking equipment can cause damage and drive up your cooling bills. The best way to deal with this problem is to draw the curtains, blinds, or shades in rooms that are not in use during the day.

4.   Setting the Thermostat for Sleeping

Our cooling requirements during the day and night are very different. At night, it’s advisable to set the thermostat 4ºF lower than the daytime setting. People sleep better in a cool room and our internal body temperature regulation ceases during deep REM sleep. The optimal sleeping temperature is in the 60ºF to 67ºF range and again a ceiling or even a box fan can help to keep the air moving. If you can, open the windows to draw some much needed fresh air into the bedroom.

If you want to schedule some essential AC system maintenance or you’re considering an upgrade, contact your local heating and cooling specialist.