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Some ways for our air conditioners to be more efficient as they work overtime during a heatwave

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Excessive heat over the next few days is likely to put pressure on the power grid

We are in the middle of a heatwave on the Central and South Coasts.

An excessive heat-warning across our region, and a long holiday weekend – are all likely to put additional stress on the power grid, as our air conditioners work overtime to keep us cool - says Ben Gallagher from SCE.

An air conditioning system will work much harder than needed if cooled indoor air escapes through faulty seals on doors and windows, poorly insulated attics or other small breaches. Gallagher said.

He told KCLU that it's a good idea to seal as many cracks and air leaks as possible and install weather stripping in doorways to keep the cool air inside your space. Closing window coverings also helps to slow heat transfer from the sun’s rays to an interior space.

Air conditioning systems typically consume much more energy than other household or office appliances. Air conditioners use about 6% of all the electricity produced in the United States, at an annual cost of about $29 billion on customer electric bills, according to energy.gov.

While it’s essential to stay cool in the summer, keeping air conditioner usage from driving up electric bills is just as important.

Gallagher says that electric fans are another way to keep us a little cooler.

In hot weather, using fans to supplement the air conditioning system lets you set the thermostat two degrees higher (from 78⁰F to 80⁰F, for example) while keeping the same personal comfort level, said Gallagher.

And if they’re set to turn in a counter-clockwise direction, it will help circulate the air downward. One note -  fans cool people, not spaces, so turn off the fan when leaving the area.

Here are some other ways to operate and maintain the cooling system in your home or office which are specific to users of central air conditioning, per SCE:

  1. All about flow: The vents of a central air conditioning system draw in warm air (called “return grilles”) and blow out cold air (“supply registers”). Keep the areas around supply registers and return grilles as clear as possible from obstructions like furniture or bulky objects. Also, it is essential to keep these vents free from dust and dirt buildup. Otherwise, the system uses more energy to circulate air.
  2. Filters: Replace the air filters for central air conditioning systems every 3 to 6 months. A clogged air filter restricts airflow and makes the system work harder. Important: The new air filter should be an exact fit; a replacement filter that’s “close enough” but not exact allows dust and dirt to bypass the filter and build up in the system’s cooling coil, making the system work harder. Find the correct filter online if it’s unavailable at a local store. Refer to the equipment specifications or product manual for the precise filter size and efficiency rating for your air conditioning system.
  3. Sizing matters: When installed, the central air conditioning system and its ducting must be correctly “sized” for the space being cooled. A previous owner may have installed a larger air conditioning system hoping to add more cooling power, but an undersized or oversized system wastes energy. Using load calculation software, a certified technician can check if your system is accurately sized for the space.
  4. Heat pumps: When your heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) equipment has reached its end of life, consider replacing it with a highly efficient central (or mini-split) air source heat pump. Beyond saving energy and lowering utility bills, it will support statewide decarbonization goals for a cleaner energy future.
  5. Open space: Keep registers and doors to empty rooms open to encourage air circulation; use the lever on registers for directional purposes only, not for shutting them. Many central air conditioning system users close vents or shut interior doors to save energy, but if the system and ducting are sized properly, reducing the airflow to the space wastes energy.
Caroline joined KCLU in October 2020. She won LA Press Club's Audio Journalist of the Year Award this year, and also won two further first place awards, for Lifestyle Feature and Personality Profile/Interview. Last year, Caroline won first place for Use Of Sound. She also won two Golden Mike Awards this year, for Best News Reporting and Best Entertainment Reporting, as well as a National Arts & Entertainment Award from LA Press Club for One-on-One interview. Caroline started her broadcasting career in the UK, in both radio and television for BBC News, 95.8 Capital FM and Sky News and she was awarded the Prince Philip Medal for her services to radio and journalism in 2007. She moved to Los Angeles in 2013 and is both an American and British citizen. Caroline lives in Agoura Hills with her daughter - her proudest production.