What is My Central Air Conditioner Trying to Tell Me? | Direct Energy Blog

What is My Central Air Conditioner Trying to Tell Me?

Did you know your appliances are talking to you? Really, they are! Did you also know you can also learn an awful lot by listening to them? Really, you can! You can find out how much electricity you’re using — and how much money you’re spending, too! To highlight what customers can discover with Direct Energy’s Direct Your Energy Insights Tool, we’re going to dig into some of the lesser-known ways your appliances affect your electric bill. By learning more about your electricity usage, you’ll use less of what we sell!

What is My Central Air Conditioner Trying to Tell Me? | Direct Energy Blog

What is My Air Conditioner Trying to Tell Me?

Believe it or not, air conditioners and HVAC systems are some of the chattiest appliances there are. Every squeak, each hum, every whine says volumes about what the machine is doing, how well it is doing it, and sometimes even what’s going wrong. For example:

Squeaking or vibration when the blower fan is running. Look for loose mounting screws and tighten them into place. Too much vibration can eventually shake apart loose wiring connections.

Blower makes a higher than normal whine. Check to see if the air filter is clogged. Clogged air filters restrict airflow, forcing the blower to pull harder. That whine also indicates that unfiltered air is being drawn in from unsealed holes and gaps in the blower housing. Replacing the air filter regularly with the MERV-type recommended by your system’s manufacturer will fix this problem and prevent wear on the blower’s motor.

Blower motor squeals or buzzes. Blower motor bearings dry out after a few years and need to be oiled. There are ports located at either end of the motor shaft. While lubricating them is surprisingly cheap and easy, it can take a lot of time, be confusing, and get very messy. If you’ve never tinkered with one before, then it’s a good idea to contact a qualified and licensed repair technician.

The outside condenser shakes and rattles when it’s running. This usually happens when the unit isn’t sitting flat. A simple fix is to shove plastic shims underneath its feet to help it sit properly. Preventing vibration is important because too much vibration can ultimately damage welds and cause expensive coolant leaks.

The outside condenser fan motor turns slowly or is only buzzing. This is good sign that the power capacitor is going bad. A normal capacitor is cylindrical with flat ends. Over time, they can develop bulges at either end or start leaking . This is a sure sign they’ve gone bad and must be replaced. Check it out by turning off the power supply or circuit break to the condenser. Next, find and remove the access panel. Locate the biggest capacitor and determine if it’s bulgy or leaking. DO NOT TOUCH THE WIRE CONNECTIONS OR CONTACTS! This capacitor uses dangerously high voltage. To replace a bulging capacitor, it’s best to contact a qualified, licensed repair technician.

What is My Central Air Conditioner Trying to Tell Me? | Direct Energy Blog

Don’t Believe What The Thermostat Tells You Is Comfortable

Air conditioning systems only have one speed. They don’t run “harder” when it’s hot, but as a home’s heat load increases, they will run longer. The longer the system runs, the more electricity it uses to cool your home. Finding ways to reduce that runtime is how you can reduce your electricity bill. The single most important factor to consider is at what temperature are you most comfortable?

If you say 72°F, think again. We rely on the thermometer to tell us about what’s comfortable and that measurement is based solely on what is customary in our society. A series of psychological experiments by the Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) showed that “comfortable temperatures” are actually societal constructs. Their research shows that most people dressed in summer clothes who did not know the room’s actual temperature preferred as being comfortable a temperature range of 73° to 79°F. Meanwhile at night, as you sleep your core body temperature lowers and heat radiates from your extremities. A National Institute of Health study found the best sleep happens as the body reaches “thermoneutrality” when environmental temperatures are at 86°F (uncovered) or 60 to 66°F (wearing pajamas and covered by one sheet). By setting your thermostat to 80°F and lying beneath a ceiling fan, your body will cool down naturally and help you get a good night’s sleep while reducing your electricity usage.

Want to know how you can save more?

Customers who sign up with a Direct Energy plan can get complete access to the Energy Insights Tool to help them monitor their usage and take more control of bill. If you’re a Texas resident, you can save even more by signing up with Direct Energy’s Free Weekends. From Friday at 6 PM to Sunday at 11:59 pm, you’ll get FREE electricity. That’s the most hours of free electricity in Texas! Just by switching to Direct Energy and saving your laundry for the weekend, you’ll really clean up!


Vernon Trollinger is a writer with a background in home improvement, electronics, fiction writing, and archaeology. He now writes about green energy technology, home energy efficiency, the natural gas industry, and the electrical grid.

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