Cooling is everything when it comes to living in a hot and humid tropical climate like ours here in Malaysia. And the air conditioner has got to be one of the most common electrical units in most homes. So much so that many of us have come to take it for granted. However, air conditioning systems really are complicated equipment with several mechanical and electrical components. While we don’t really have to understand how they work, it’s always best to know some common mistakes to ensure our systems are optimised for efficiency, durability and ultimately economy.
10 common AC mistakes
Mistake No 1: The Bigger the Better
The bigger the unit, the faster it will cool down the space, right? Wrong. People often make the mistake of buying a larger-sized unit than they need. What they don’t realise is that not only do they not get any additional performance compared to a properly-sized system, it will actually consume much more power, which is wasteful.
Similarly, buying an undersized unit is not a wise choice in the long run. While a smaller unit will consume less power, it will result in improper cooling that causes extra strain leading to more frequent break downs.
Mistake No 2: Ignoring the Refrigerant Type
For decades, Freon, also known as HCFC-22 (Hydrochloroflurocarbons) and R-22, was the main refrigerant chemical used in residential air conditioning units. However, this refrigerant is harmful to the environment due to its serious ozone-depleting properties and global warming effects.
Many air conditioner manufacturers have since replaced HCFC with Hydroflurocarbons (HFC), namely R-410A and more recently R-32. These refrigerants do not deplete the ozone layer and have lower global warming potential (GWP) than R-22. In fact, the R-32 refrigerant, which is used by Mitsubishi Electric has three times lower GWP than R410A. It is also important to note that R-32 is also more energy efficient than R-410A.
Mistake No 3: Improper placement of air conditioning unit
Many people don’t realise that choosing the right spot to place their air conditioner inside the home can make a difference in improving energy efficiency. The air conditioner should be placed in a cool, shaded spot away from direct sunlight. Putting your unit in a hotter spot just means it has to work harder, therefore making it difficult to function efficiently and effectively.
On the outside, the air conditioner’s compressor unit isn’t exactly the most attractive landscape feature and can be a real eyesore. A typical solution would be to use shrubbery or other plants to camouflage the compressor. But, this can seriously hinder your air conditioner’s functionality and incur incremental costs in the long run. Leaves can get caught in the unit, impeding air flow. Dirt, dust and other small debris can clog up the system while reducing air quality. If you can hide your unit without placing plants or other obstructions too close, by all means. Otherwise, it’s wiser to sacrifice aesthetics for the sake of functionality and efficiency.
Mistake No 4: Ignoring the Servicing and Maintenance Process
The filter in your air conditioner is a pretty simple thing and because of that, it is often easy to forget about. At a minimum, you should be cleaning or changing your filter once every three months and more frequently if your system is running all the time or if you have pets.
Neglect this chore and you’ll have a dirty and clogged filter that will run up your electricity bill and ultimately shorten the lifespan of your system. Not committing to routine maintenance of your air conditioning – once a year at least and by a professional – just ensures a steady decline in performance and unavoidable increase in energy use. An air conditioner is not unlike a car. Regular tune-ups ensure all parts such as filters, coils and fins are working in perfect harmony, thus making the operation more efficient.
Mistake No 5: Setting the Temperature Too Low
Many homeowners use a flawed logic when they set the temperature. They assume that adjusting the temperature lower than desired – for example, turning it to 16°C when they want it to be 20°C – will mean the room will cool faster.
In reality, air conditioners work at the same pace to cool a room uniformly regardless of the temperature that you set. This means that the air conditioner won’t shut off until it reaches the set temperature, which in this case, is well-below the temperature desired, leading to wasted energy and higher electricity bills.
Mistake No 6: Positioning Your Thermostat Wrongly
Thermostats are relatively simple devices, but, if you install them improperly, they can disproportionately and adversely affect your electric bill. Make sure that your thermostat is placed away from sources of heat, otherwise it will read the room temperature as far warmer than it really is. When this happens, you will be running your air conditioner long after you have reached the desired temperature.
So, keep that thermostat away from sun-soaked windows and walls as well as heat-emitting devices inside like lamps and or television sets. Also, don’t place your thermostat in a rarely used hall or back room. Nor should it be in the warmest or coldest room at home. You want your thermostat in the room that is used most consistently and best represents the desired temperature for your entire home.
Mistake No 7: Not Taking Full Advantage of Fans
Most people also incorrectly think that if they have the air conditioning on, they should skip using a fan as it will adversely impact the cooling effect. On the contrary, fans, especially ceiling fans can ease your air conditioner’s burden of keeping your home cool. Fans work by moving air around the room and creating a “wind chill” effect which keeps cool air circulating. When used together, ceiling fans reduce the amount of time you run your air conditioning unit, and ceiling fans are far more energy efficient.
Mistake No 8: Cooling Empty Rooms
If you have rooms in your home that you’re not regularly using, you should close the vents in those rooms (for central air conditioning systems) or shut the doors to those empty rooms. This will help the air conditioning system circulate the air only in rooms you are using, otherwise you end up raising your energy costs just to cool a room nobody is actually in. Additionally, closing closet and bathroom doors will help ensure those spaces aren’t swallowing your cold air.
Mistake No 9: Ignoring Strange Noises
Gone are the days when loud knocking was a common feature of air conditioning systems. These days, air conditioners are designed to operate quietly, so if you do hear loud noises coming from the vicinity of your unit indoors or even outside, you shouldn’t ignore them.
Investigate the source of those strange clatters, rattles and clanking and if they are indeed coming from the air conditioning, call in a professional to get the issue properly diagnosed. The last thing you should be doing is to tinker with the unit on your own or you may find yourself having to fork out more ringgit to overhaul the entire unit instead of paying for more cost-effective servicing.
Mistake No 10: Ignoring Strange Smells
Just like loud sounds are a bad sign, so too are abnormal, stale smells. While it is normal for air conditioning to have a subtle distinct odour, if the smell changes, you need to get it addressed. It could be the air conditioning unit itself, or there may be something wrong with the ductwork or compressor.
For more interesting facts and informative tips about air conditioning and regulating your indoor climate, please visit Mitsubishi Electric’s microsite.