What Heatwaves Do to Older AC Units

Climate change experts tell us that in the coming years we can expect severe weather patterns to occur more often. In the summer, that means more heatwaves.

Heatwaves pose a serious health risk to everyone but especially the elderly, small children, and the ill. It can be a life-or-death matter to have a functioning air conditioner.

Unfortunately, a heatwave can overwhelm an older air conditioning unit.

Why Older AC Units Struggle in Hot Weather

Heatwaves cause your air conditioner to work harder because of the way air conditioners are designed. When your unit removes heat from your home, it then expels that heat into the outside air. As long as the outside air temperature is typical for your area, your HVAC will easily disperse the heat it has collected.

However, when the outside air temperature is abnormally high, the outside air might be hotter than the warm air the unit has collected from inside your home. When that’s the case, it’s hard for your unit to get rid of the heat. The unit has to work harder to do so. This extra effort puts a particular strain on the compressor. That’s why the compressor is the one expensive component most likely to fail during a heatwave.

How to Help Your Older AC Unit Survive a Heatwave

During a heatwave, you can help your old air conditioner by taking some basic steps. First of all, choose a thermostat setting that will keep your family from suffering but at the same time won’t ask too much of your aging air conditioner. You can add to the comfort of your home by operating a few simple fans placed throughout your home.

If possible, block the heat from entering through windows by keeping window treatments closed. You’ll be surprised by the difference it makes.

If you want to achieve an optimal temperature in your home, you can run your air conditioner a little harder before the sun rises then reset the thermostat to a more reasonable setting as the morning goes along.

When possible, turn your air conditioner completely off. Why shorten the life of your air conditioner by making it work during the time that no one’s home?

You can increase your air conditioner’s efficiency by creating shade for the unit. Be careful if you plan to rely upon vegetation for shade because trees and bushes can easily create other problems. For example, if plants are too close to the air conditioner, they can prevent air from flowing freely to and from the unit. Debris from vegetation can also clog the unit’s filters.

Instead of vegetation, consider using a simple fence to create shade. Similar to the vegetation, the fence should not be so close to the air conditioner that it prevents air from flowing freely.

Why Newer AC Units Can Handle Extreme Weather

Modern HVAC units can better handle the extreme temperatures that we experience these days. The difference between old and new units is easy to see when you compare their SEER ratings.

SEER is the abbreviation for seasonal energy efficiency rating. It reflects the amount of cooling a unit can produce in British Thermal Units (BTUs) per the amount of electricity it requires in watts.

The more efficient the unit, the higher its SEER rating. Late-model air conditioning units will have a minimum double-digit rating of 13 while old units will have low single-digit ratings of six or even less.

The more demanding the summertime temperatures where you live, the more important it becomes to have an air conditioner with a sufficient SEER rating. Most recommendations for hotter areas suggest that homeowners shop for units with a SEER rating of at least 14.

There are units with much higher SEER ratings. However, they are far costlier. If money is no object, and you live in a particularly brutal environment, you might choose a high-end unit. Most people, though, will find that a unit with a SEER rating of 13 or 14 is strong enough to see them through their area’s roughest summers.

Would you like to replace your older inefficient unit with a newer one with a higher SEER rating? Or do you want a technician to help you keep your older unit working through one more summer? Either way, we’re here to help. Don’t wait until you’re in the middle of a heatwave. Contact HVAC Philly today.

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