Are you getting by with aging air conditioning equipment that cools well enough, but costs you a fortune every summer in electric bills?
Chances are, you’ve heard that replacing your system can cut those costs by reducing AC power consumption. That’s definitely true if your system is more than 10 years old, because new systems are much more efficient. However, the cost of a commercial system replacement may seem prohibitive, especially when your old one still works.
Here’s what no one is telling you: there are ways you can reduce AC power consumption by improving the efficiency of your old equipment.
These small fixes won’t amount to the same saving as replacement, but they can reduce your bills and buy you some time until you’re ready to spend the money on new equipment.
Before the peak heat season hits, take these 5 steps to make your old air conditioning system work as efficiently as possible.
5 steps to reduce AC power consumption
1. Remove air flow obstacles
We see this problem all the time in workplaces: people have different opinions when it comes to the temperature. If they are too cold but have no control over the thermostat, they take matters into their own hands by blocking off AC registers.
Or, workers might block air conditioning air flow without meaning to. People often move furniture, equipment or workplace fixtures and accidentally block an AC register.
When air flow is blocked, your system needs to work harder to reach the set temperature. That means it runs longer, uses more electricity, and runs up your electric bill.
The easiest place to start cutting down AC power consumption is to check all your air conditioning registers and vents. Remove any obstacles and make sure they are open!
Also, you want to make sure there is enough space around your condenser unit(s), which are typically located outside or in a mechanical room. If there are boxes, furniture, or even piles of outdoor debris piled up against a condenser, it has a hard time expelling heat from your space.
Learn more: Top 10 Causes of HVAC Air Flow Problems
2. Change air conditioning filters
This is another simple task you can do yourself, and it makes your system run more efficiently.
Your air conditioning system has one or more filters that trap dust and debris and keep them from getting into your equipment. Filters need to be cleaned or replaced (depending on the type) regularly so they don’t get clogged.
If you have not done that recently (or ever), put this on your to-do list immediately!
Why? When air conditioner filters get clogged up with dust and dirt, not only does nasty stuff build up on the equipment, but it impedes the air flow within the system.
Remember what we said about proper air flow? When it’s impeded, the system runs longer and works harder trying to reach set temperature. And AC power consumption goes up. Then your electric bill goes up.
How often should you change AC filters to prevent clogging and airflow problems? It depends on your space and your system usage. However, for most commercial systems, they should be changed at least every couple of months, if not more often.
Learn more: Why and How to Change An AC Filter
3. Clean the air conditioner coils
Your air conditioning system has evaporator coils that work to remove heat and humidity from the air in your space. It also has condenser coils that expel the heat outside your space.
When coils get covered in dirt and grime, they can’t transfer heat as efficiently. Again, that makes your system have to run longer and work harder to cool the air. And the longer it runs, the more it runs up your AC power consumption and your electric bull.
Condenser coils in particular are susceptible to this problem. They are often located outdoors and in areas that make them get dirty quickly. Especially here in New York City, where outdoor air quality can be a big issue. If your space is close to street level (and exposed to vehicle exhaust) or located near vent systems from nearby restaurants, manufacturing or industrial facilities, chances are you have dirty coils.
Learn more about coil cleaning: AC Losing Its Cool? Try AC Coil Cleaning
4. Have your ducts inspected for leaks
If you have a ducted air conditioning system, holes and cracks can develop in the ducts. When that happens, your expensive cooled air leaks out into crawl spaces and never reaches your workspace.
Guess what happens next? Your system has to run longer to replace that lost air and get your space down to set temperature. AC power consumption goes up. You get the idea.
Compromised ducts can happen during construction or maintenance work. Or, pests like rodents or birds can make holes and live happily in your ducts (especially if the same ducts serve your heating system.
If you suspect leaky ducts, call in an HVAC expert to perform an inspection. You might need duct repairs or new ducts.
5. Make small design changes for consistent cooling
Have you renovated your space without changing your air conditioning system? If your space layout and/or usage has changed, you might benefit from some small HVAC design changes.
Moving or modifying duct runs, or adding a small supplemental unit in one problem area, can make a big difference in cooling your entire space consistently.
How does this help your electric bill? Because you make the most efficient use of your system’s cooling power.
When one area is too hot due to poor HVAC design, you’re likely turning down the thermostat to make it more comfortable. But you’re likely making other areas too cold at the same time. So that’s wasting energy and unnecessarily adding to your AC power consumption.
Start with a system inspection and maintenance visit
If you’ve tried the DIY options and still need help, call a HVAC expert to come in for a system maintenance visit. Your technician will change your filters, clean coils, and inspect your entire system. There’s a good chance that a professional can recommend changes that can reduce your AC power consumption PLUS help you avoid breakdowns that disrupt your business.
Learn more about the benefits of HVAC maintenance.
If you’re in New York City, we’d love to help. Contact us anytime.