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Stay Cool, Save Money: Fast fixes for your air conditioning

Consumer Reports gives advice on how you can save money on your AC unit.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – If your window or central AC isn’t cooling like it used to, Consumer Reports says there are a few things you can do yourself while waiting for a repair company -- that may actually fix the issue you are having.

Start by keeping the air filter clean.

“A dirty filter is a common problem for window and central ACs. It restricts the airflow, which reduces the AC’s ability to cool the room,” Consumer Reports engineer Chris Reagan explained.

If you just need to clean or replace it, no need for a service call – you can do it yourself:

Window AC filters: Window AC units typically have a reusable filter that you’ll need to vacuum gently and then wash with soap and water about once a month during peak periods.

Central AC filters: With a Central AC, check the manual to see how often yours needs replacing. You’ll most likely need to replace your filters more often if you have pets because their hair can clog up the filters faster.

To maximize the efficiency of your air conditioner, for window ACs, Consumer Reports recommends you use weather stripping around the unit. The weatherstripping keeps the cool air from escaping outside while keeping the warm air outside from sneaking in.

Location can also affect a window AC. It has to work harder if it’s placed in a very sunny spot. Keep your shades and curtains closed during the day to keep the sun from adding extra heat to your house.

With your central AC, if the temperature seems off, make sure the thermostat isn’t exposed to direct sunlight, which may cause it to register the wrong temperature.

“You also want to be sure that your AC has enough cooling capacitor or power,” said Reagan. “Take a look at the room it’s going to be in. If your unit is too small for your space, it will never keep up, especially on those super-hot days.

On the other hand, if your unit is too large, it might cycle too quickly and not dry out the air and leave your space a little humid.”

READ: Ceiling fans can help you feel cool while saving money

If you have a window AC and none of the fast fixes we just mentioned work for you, Consumer Reports says you need to:

  • Compare the cost of a repair visit with the cost of a brand new one.
  • Consider the age of it too. If your window AC is more than 8 years old, it’s probably time to replace it.
  • Depending on the size of the room you are trying to cool, a Consumer Reports recommended window unit can cost between $280 and $470.

For central ACs, Consumer Reports says it may be worth the cost of a repair visit. In its member surveys, Consumer Reports found the median price paid to repair a broken system was only $250. Compare that to installing a brand-new central AC, which can be thousands of dollars.