Staying cool during summer heat waves can pose issues for you and your family, and it can also exert a lot of stress on your air conditioning system. An AC is engineered to operate under a specified average range of temperatures. When outdoor temps exceed those specifications, the unit is subjected to unusual demands and increased wear and tear.
How Much Heat Is Too Much?
- Most central air conditioners are designed to keep the indoor temperature 20 degrees cooler than the outdoor temperature. For example, if the outdoor temperature is 100 degrees, an AC cannot keep indoor temperatures cooler than 80 degrees.
- An air conditioner can only extract a fixed amount of BTUs of heat from the house per hour. As the heat that’s affecting the house exceeds the unit’s BTU capacity, the air conditioner’s cooling performance declines rapidly, and its components are subject to stress.
What Happens Next?
Once the air conditioner’s BTU capacity has been maxed out by extreme outdoor heat, the AC may run nonstop instead of on its normal on/off cycles. This continuous operation stresses certain critical components of the unit, including:
- The system compressor is a powerful electric motor. If it does not cycle off regularly, overheating may damage the compressor, requiring very expensive repair or replacement.
- Nonstop AC operation during heat waves may also cause the indoor evaporator coil to ice up as the coil temperature drops excessively. Ice formation will gradually obstruct airflow through the coil, which may trigger a safety shut-off function. Costly damage to the compressor may also occur.
How to Avoid Damage
- Don’t set the thermostat more than 20 degrees below the outdoor temperature. This helps avoid nonstop or extremely extended AC cycles.
- During heat waves, utilize other cooling methods, such as ceiling fans, to move air in the house and augment the cooling effect of the air conditioner.
- To maximize airflow, make sure to replace the air filter monthly all summer long.
For more advice about getting through summer heat waves without damaging air conditioner components, contact the professionals at Detmer and Sons.