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April 2022 EnergyWise Tip: Cooling System Tune-ups

April 13, 2022

April 2022 EnergyWiseSM Tip: Cooling System Tune-Ups
With summer coming, Nebraskans are about to use around 10% of their average home’s energy needs in a few short months. Yes, it’s air-conditioning season again!

Many only consider the status of their cooling system when it becomes stuffy inside and they flip the switch on their thermostat from “HEAT” to “COOL.” If cold air blows out, they don’t give it another thought so long as they stay cool through summer. But what if there was a way you could save considerable energy, prolong the life of your central air-conditioning equipment and qualify for an EnergyWiseSM rebate to reduce costs?

The solution simply involves contacting a NATE-certified Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC) technician to perform a cooling system tune-up on your equipment. NATE stands for North American Technician Excellence, which is a testing and certification organization recognized throughout the HVAC industry.

Typically, tune-ups on previously neglected cooling systems that have been neglected can provide 5 to 15% energy savings or more. According to homeadvisor.com, a tune-up will cost from $75 to $200. However, local electric utilities supporting EnergyWiseSM energy efficiency programs will provide a $30 incentive on tune-ups.

At a minimum, any technician conducting a tune-up should:

Clean the condenser coil in the outdoor unit – Outdoor condenser coils become dirty over time and are also easily bent. This reduces heat transfer through the coil and causes a cooling system to operate longer to cool the home. An HVAC technician will clean the outdoor condenser coil using commercial-grade cleaning products and use a tool called a "fin comb" to align the coil fins into nearly original condition.

Check the refrigerant charge – Performance and efficiency of your air conditioner is greatest when the refrigerant charge exactly matches the manufacturer's specification. If your system is low, the HVAC technician will add just the right amount to optimize performance.

Clean the indoor evaporator coil – The indoor coil is inside your furnace or ductwork. Even if you regularly change furnace filters, dust, allergens and airborne particles can accumulate on its fins and dramatically reduce efficiency. While the scope of most tune-ups does not include cleaning this coil, the technician will check to assure significant build up has not occurred.

Check the fan belt and lubricate the motor – Over time, belts crack and signal their impending failure. Some fan motors require occasional oiling to lubricate moving parts and reduce premature motor failure. The technician will assess the condition of the belt and lubricate any parts requiring oil.

Blow out the drain line – Condensate drain lines are continuously moist during the cooling season. If water does not flow through the drain line properly, mold, mildew and fungus can consequently develop and obstruct or block the condensate drain line. The condensate pan can then become filled with water and will eventually overflow.

Visually inspect the system – The HVAC technician’s trained eye will identify any external problems with your system for further rectification.

Discuss proper operation – The HVAC technician can discuss proper control sequences to assure heating and cooling systems do not operate simultaneously, and how to optimize operation for efficiency and comfort.

Discuss/review proper temperature set-back – If you are unsure how to program your thermostat to automatically adjust settings, the HVAC technician can demonstrate this process for you.

Filter Service Schedule – In addition to discussing the quality and effectiveness of various filters, the technician can help identify how often it should be changed. Some homes need this monthly, while others may get by with the same filter for six months or longer. According to the Department of Energy, replacing a dirty, clogged filter with a clean one can lower your air conditioner's energy consumption by 5 to 15 percent.

Your local electric utility has information on additional ways to efficiently use the energy they provide while keeping your home comfortable. In partnership with Nebraska Public Power District, they offer EnergyWiseSM incentives to reduce the cost for many of these improvements. Visit with your local electric utility or go to www.nppd.com to learn more.

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