The internet is full of information and advice. The only problem is that sometimes that information and advice can be completely wrong. If all you want to know is whether you should watch a certain movie, well, a mistake is not exactly life-changing. But when you read myths and fallacies about things like your central air conditioning system, mistakes can be expensive, bad for your health, or both.
Here are some common myths we see pop up. So if you’ve read any of these, or heard them from well-meaning family or friends, you can combat them with the facts.
Myth: A Bigger Air Conditioner Means Better Cooling
Put simply: bigger is NOT better. The most effective air conditioner for your home is one that is sized properly to suit the space. Even if money was no object, putting an air conditioner meant for a 4,000 square foot home into a 1,500 square foot condo isn’t going to cool the condo better, but is actually going to make things worse.
An oversized air conditioner will “short cycle”, meaning it will meet the home’s “cooling load” too quickly and shut off. The on-and-off cycle typically lasts about 8-10 minutes, where the cycle of a properly sized unit will last 15-20. That means your AC is working twice as hard and putting a whole lot of wear and tear on the system. You could see breakdowns or be forced to replace the unit sooner, and you’ll certainly see higher energy bills.
Worse, you may notice an increase in humidity. When the air conditioner cycles quickly, it doesn’t have a chance to properly remove moisture from the air. That can make you feel even more uncomfortable, and send you running to lower the temperature, exacerbating the problem further. Plus, summertime humidity is notorious for breeding mold and mildew, two things you do not want to see in your house.
Myth: Running Ceiling Fans Means The Air Conditioner Will Run Less
Actually… no. Ceiling fans don’t cool a room, they simply make *you* feel cooler by wicking sweat from your skin. Using a ceiling fan means that you can raise the temperature of the air conditioner as much as five degrees and still be just as comfortable.
In that way, ceiling fans can help you lower energy usage and save on cooling costs, but only if you turn the air conditioner temperature up, and turn the ceiling fan off when you leave the room.
Myth: Setting The Temperature Very Low Will Cool The House Faster
This one is just wishful thinking. It usually comes on the heels of turning the temperature way up when you’re not home, then thinking that lowering it down equally dramatically will get you comfortable quickly when you return.
An air conditioner doesn’t work faster just because you want it to. It works at one speed, so if the temperature disparity is great, it will simply run at that speed for a much longer time. That doesn’t sound like a recipe for comfort, does it?
Turning the temperature up a few degrees when you’re not home is actually a great way to reduce energy costs, and no, your air conditioner doesn’t actually have to work harder to cool things down from a higher temperature, it will just take longer.
If you want to raise the temperature while you’re out and still get comfortable quickly when you return, your best bet is to invest in a programmable thermostat. At a minimum, you can schedule warmer and cooler cycles. Or with a WiFi thermostat, you can go so far as adjusting the thermostat on the fly – or setting up geofencing so it automatically knows when you’re almost home and responds accordingly.
Myth: The Cheapest Filters Are Fine
Let’s be clear: any filter is better than no filter. In fact, failing to use the minimum protection for your system is likely to void your manufacturer’s warranty. All filters trap dust and things like carpet fibers, and those are things that can quickly gunk up your system and damage it unless you use – and regularly change – filters.
But is the minimum protection from the cheapest filter good enough? Well, it depends on your definition of “good enough”. There’s an awful lot of stuff in the air, much of which gets circulated through your HVAC system and into the air you breathe. Those airborne pollutants – from dust and dander to pollen, cooking smoke, chemical vapors and lots more – contribute to indoor air pollution and poor air quality.
If your filter can’t trap those particles, they’re going to stay in the air and there’s a good chance they’ll end up in your eyes, nose and lungs. That contributes to allergies, respiratory issues, even illness.
The MERV rating of a filter will designate the size of particles that the filter can capture. If you’re allergic to mold, have pets, use perfume or hair spray, cook, or want to keep bacteria and viruses out of your breathable air, then the cheapest filters are not going to be good enough at all.
A better idea is to choose one with the highest approved MERV rating for your system for maximum effectiveness and air quality.
Myth: You Can Skip Maintenance Just This Once
There are lots of reasons people give for skipping maintenance. Sometimes they forget. Sometimes they want to save a few bucks. Sometimes they shrug and think it’s not very important. These days, many people are concerned about having other people in their homes where they may be at risk of spreading things like coronavirus.
None of these are good reasons, and let us tell you why: regular maintenance is one of the single most important things you can do to protect your investment, to *save* money, and to keep your home healthier.
Your HVAC system loses as much as 15% of its efficiency year over year. Skipping maintenance “just this once” means that inefficiency keeps compounding.
Maintenance does more than ensure maximum efficiency (and cost savings). There is an important safety factor, too. Your HVAC system has a lot of moving parts, and a failure somewhere could have both financial and safety consequences. During routine maintenance, parts are inspected and cleaned, connections checked, and potential problems rooted out.
But if you really need a kick in the rear, failing to perform regular maintenance is almost sure to void your manufacturer’s warranty. So when something goes wrong – which is more likely when you skip maintenance – you won’t even be covered.
Myth: If Your Air Conditioner Is Getting Older, You Can Just Run It Until It Dies
Well, technically you *can*, unless there is some health concern or danger to convince you otherwise. But the “run it until it dies” viewpoint usually springs up after a repair. You’ve invested the money in the old unit, so you might as well keep it going as long as possible, right?
Probably not. That’s what we in the industry call “throwing good money after bad”! As you run your ailing unit into the ground, so to speak, your energy costs increase more and more. And if something goes wrong again, repairs on top of repairs are only contributing to the problem.
Besides, you know Murphy’s Law. If your air conditioner is on the way out, it’s going to pick the hottest day of the year to go. You’ll be left with a steamy hot house and a purchase to make under duress.
Even if that doesn’t happen, it’s a good idea to prepare for it. Knowing your options by getting a replacement estimate, and looking into available financing and rebates, can help you plan the upgrade instead of being forced into it.
If you’ve got air conditioner woes, whether you have one that isn’t sized or cooling properly, or you sense that your old one is about to retire, contact us for a free estimate. We’ll make recommendations and help you make the investment that’s right for you.