As the weather becomes warmer, some people are planning summer vacations to hot, sunny states like Florida and Arizona. But if you're a snowbird who lives in a warm state part time in order to escape cold temperatures in your home state, the advent of summer weather probably means that it's about time for you to fly back north. Before you do, though, you need to make sure that your house is ready to stand unoccupied until next winter. Your air conditioner can be an important tool in protecting your home from the heat while it's empty, so you can't just shut your AC off on your way out the door. On the other hand, you don't want to run up a large electric bill for an empty house. Here are a few tips that can help you protect your air conditioner over the summer months.
Install a Programmable Thermostat
The reason you don't want to turn your air conditioner completely off is because the heat can be very damaging to your home. Not only can it foster mold and mildew growth, it can also damage the sheetrock in your walls.
Conventional wisdom says that when you're away from home, you should set your thermostat for four degrees above the normal temperature you like to keep it at – for instance, set it at 77 while you're away if you would normally set it at 73. But this isn't practical when you're going to be away from your home for months – if the temperatures rises to 90 degrees every day of the summer, setting the air conditioner at 77 is going to result in a pretty large electric bill for an unoccupied home.
Instead, install a programmable thermostat that will allow you to set the temperature at 72 degrees for two hours a day and 88 degrees the rest of the day. The two hours at 72 degrees will remove moisture and humidity from the air, preventing mold growth. The rest of the time, the temperature inside the house will be high enough not to run up a large electric bill, but still safe for the interior of your home.
Check the Fan Switch
The fan in your AC is what forces cold air through your ducts and out of your vents. Before you close your house up for the summer, take the time to check and make sure that it's set to the "auto" position, instead of the "on" position. If the fan is set to on, then it will blow the entire time you're away, which will waste energy and cost you money.
In the auto position, the blower will only run periodically, which will keep your costs down. It will also help keep mold from forming in your home. In fact, it's a good idea to keep the fan in the auto position even when you are at home. When the blower runs continuously, condensation that forms on the air conditioner's evaporator coil is continuously blowing moisture into your home, raising the humidity levels in the house.
Do Maintenance Before You Leave
If your air conditioner breaks down over the summer, you could end up walking into a hot, muggy mess when you return to your second home in the winter. However, you can prevent many air conditioner problems by performing some basic maintenance before you leave.
Remove any debris that have accumulated in your outdoor AC unit, and give the exterior of the unit a good brushing to remove dirt and dust that can damage your coil. Check the vents for signs of dirt, dust, and rust and clean them before you go. Most importantly, install a new, clean AC filter before you lock up for the summer. It's best to choose a filter that's designed to last for several months. For more ideas on summer prep, call an air conditioning service in the area.
By taking care of your air conditioner and ensuring that it's set properly, you're protecting your home away from home from any heat damage over the summer. You'll be glad that you took the time to do so when you return south next winter.