By Dalen Blumentritt
of Reliance Heating & Air Conditioning
Q. Should I have my AC unit serviced?
A. Here in the Valley of the Sun a heat pump runs around 2200 hundred hours per year. The compressor runs at 3450 RPM’s. If this were your car running at the same RPM, or let’s say, 60 MPH you would travel around the equator 5.3 times per year or 132,000 miles a year. Not many of us would try to drive our car that distance without doing some preventive maintenance! My opinion is that servicing our air conditioner prolongs the life of the system and helps it run efficiently. That being said, it is critical to have the right person working on it. Anyone putting gauges on your system can do more harm than good if they are not properly trained. They can introduce contaminates or overcharge the system with refrigerant. Therefore, be sure to do your research before calling someone to come work on your AC unit.
Q. How long should my air conditioner last?
A. Typically, an AC unit should last 12-15 years. However, we have also seen many systems that are 20 plus years old.
The warranty on a majority of newer systems is 10 years. If you have a major component failure past the 10-year mark, such as a compressor or an evaporator coil leak, in most cases I would recommend replacing the entire system versus spending thousands of dollars on a 10 or 11-year-old unit. The minute you replace the coil something else fails and you will have spent as much on repairs as you would have spent on a new unit. Especially if you consider the new unit is going to be more efficient.
Q. My AC unit runs constantly… is this normal?
A. When the temperature gets up near 108-110 degrees, a properly sized system is at its maximum capacity. When we exceed 110 our systems may struggle to maintain our set temperature. However, we only exceed 110 degrees for around 20 days of the year, and that is only for 4 to 5 hours of the day, so we do not want to size our AC units for these extreme temperatures. Therefore, when you see the mercury rising to 115 or 118 degrees, set the thermostat a few degrees cooler than normal the night before. That way if the AC can’t keep up in the heat of the day, the house won’t be uncomfortable.
Having too large of an AC unit will cause the unit to cycle on and off frequently during the more mild conditions. It will also fail to dehumidify and be more costly to operate.
Q. Is there anything I can do to save money on my utility bill?
A. I recommend starting by having your AC serviced to be sure it is running as efficiently as possible. Moreover, having your duct work inspected for leaks and sealed if needed can also help save money on your utility bills. Additionally, have your attic insulation evaluated and increased to R38. This will help save money on your utility bill by creating a more efficient envelope. Lastly, make sure your pool pumps and electric water heaters are on timers to keep them off during on-peak times. If you are an APS customer and don’t have solar, your on peak time is 3pm to 8pm. Limit electrical use during this window.