How can I make my Florida air conditioner last longer?
Wednesday, August 11, 2021
Air conditioning systems don’t last as long in Florida as in the more temperate climates further north—only 14 years on average. And at homes near the coast or in South Florida they might only survive for 10 years. But you can use these 7 techniques to help your a/c outlive the average:
1) Change the filter regularly - The simplest maintenance tip is also the most effective. Ask any service tech and they will agree: change your filter on a regular schedule, typically anywhere from every 3 to 6 months, to get more life out of the system. Maybe even sooner during summer months of heavy usage. If the filter is inside the unit, we also recommend taking a quick peek at the visible area inside the air handler (indoor unit) with a flashlight when you replace it, looking for any moisture or staining, .
2) Schedule regular maintenance - Most a/c contractors offer service contracts that provide a tune-up, cleaning, and overall check of the system on a six-month or annual basis. Some even give you a discount on any addiitional service calls for problems that come up between scheduled maintenance dates.
3) Give the system a rest when you can - Use a programmable thermostat that nudges the temperature warmer in the middle of weekdays when you’re not at home. And set the thermostat to 79º F while on summer vacation, or use a humidistat to keep the humidity low with minimal a/c running time. Newer thermostats have a humidistat built-in. See our article How do I set a humidistat in Florida? to learn more. Shutting down the system and opening the windows on cool days is also an option, as long as outdoor humidity is low.
4) Don’t run the blower continuously - The thermostat has two settings for the blower: “ON” and “AUTO.” Using the “ON” setting makes it run 24-hours a day and will lessen blower life. It should only be used briefly when the extra air circulation is necessary.
5) Keep a/c condensate drain line clear - Pouring a bleach/water solution down the drain line occasionally, followed by a rinse with water only, will keep the water from backing up into the air handler and making a wet mess that can turn into mold. This is especially important during summer months. A “float switch” (shown at right) that detects when the drain line is backed up and shuts off the system until repaired is good to have too.
6) Don’t limit the air flow - Restricted air flow reduces the efficiency and life of the system. It can occur in two places: around the condenser (outdoor unit) and at the registers (vents) inside. The condenser needs a clear area of at least a couple of feet around it and even more above, in order to effectively dissipate the heat that is being removed from the house. And closing registers in unoccupied rooms does not actually save money. It creates back-pressure on the duct system that can cause premature duct leakage, and unbalances the air flow to other rooms.
7) Clean the condenser regularly - Leaf debis inside the condenser, along with dust and dirt on the condenser coils, both reduce system efficiency and lifespan. This is typically done as part of a maintenance service contract by your a/c technician.
Also, see our blog posts Where is the air filter for my central air conditioner and furnace? I can’t find it. and How much cheaper is it to heat a house with a heat pump versus an electric furnace or baseboard heater? and Is it alright to close the air conditioning vents in unused rooms? and What is included in an air conditioner inspection by a home inspector?
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