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How to lower your summer air conditioning bills by taking action now.

Jun 27, 2023

As summer approaches, your thoughts may turn to your air conditioning system. Your likely concern: Will it work?

If your home is among the 91% of homes in the U.S. with an air conditioner – according to the U.S. Census – you want to know the answer to that question before the heat of summer begins to bear down.

Spring is an ideal time to schedule a visit from a cooling and heating professional. "That's the time you want to get on the schedule and have somebody come out, take a look at (your air conditioner), find the potential issues that they might have, get them fixed up, so when it does get that first 80-to-90-degree day your system is running at peak efficiency," said Jimmy Hiller, founder and CEO of Hiller Plumbing, Heating, Cooling, and Electrical in Knoxville, Tennessee.

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There's nothing worse than having your air conditioner give out during a heat wave, so it's important that homeowners schedule tune-ups before the summer months arrive, said Angie Hicks, chief customer officer at Angi and co-founder of Angie's List.

"Not only can annual tune-ups save you from emergency repairs, but having an efficient AC system can save homeowners up to 15% on their monthly energy bills and extend the system's life," she said.

Tune-ups typically cost $60 to $200, while a full AC replacement can cost $5,000 or more, she said.

"Obviously, you want to have your system turned on before you really need it," Hiller said. "It's no different than when you're taking a long trip … you want to have that vehicle checked out. That's really what we recommend (for your AC unit). We're going to check three things: the mechanical system (and) that refrigerant cycle. We're going to check the electrical system, make sure everything's working properly. And then the airflow (to) make sure that the system is producing the amount of air that it needs to and (is) distributing it to the right rooms."

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Watch for any discrepancy in the temperature your system is set at on the thermostat and what the temperature in the home is, Hiller said.

"Anytime you get more than two or three degrees difference, that's probably a sign that there's a problem," he said. "You want to start looking at the air filter, make sure that it is clean .... Check the registers (to) make sure you have airflow going through there. Or maybe there's some ice buildup inside the coil, that's a big sign."

If that is the case, turn the system off before you call for service. "If it is frozen to make sure that when they get out there they can go to work on the system," Hiller said.

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The Department of Energy recommends getting your heat pump – which despite its name also can cool the home –serviced annually by a professional technician, who should inspect ducts for any possible leakage, filters, blower, and indoor coil for dirt and other obstructions.

If it's time to replace your air conditioner, it might be worth considering a heat pump system, which shifts heat in or out of the house, depending on the season, Consumer Reports said. Although a heat pump can cost on average, about $5,900, you can save up to $948 on energy bills annually, compared to oil heating, the organization says.

Follow Mike Snider on Twitter: @mikesnider.

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Home Depot's tiny homes: A look back at 'kit homes': Keeping cool: Check your air filter. Keep the area around your AC unit clean. Check your vents. Clean your air ducts. Give your system a break. Install a smart thermostat. Get an in-window AC unit. Get an HVAC maintenance contract. Save on utility bills: Don't fan on this ceiling fan tip: Heat pumps: What's everyone talking about?