This weather is gross and getting grosser. Our own AC unit is falling behind. With 114 degree heat expected, most units can't keep up - whether they're new or old. And you don't want to be in the heat if yours gives out because you know all the AC companies will be booked. The best way to stay cool is to give a little TLC. Here are some tried-and-true ways to reduce the strain on your air-conditioner.
Get Cheap-o Filters
Grab some dollar filters and temporarily swap them out. If you'll die of allergies, at least downgrade to a medium range filter. Too fancy (think allergy filters) and you restrict airflow and strain your system. Look for a MERV 9 or below.
Plan to Netflix and ACTUALLY chill out at night
Sun up = AC temp up. Sun down = AC temp way down. For optimal performance you should run the AC at night to cool things off (maybe even a little chilly) and turn it as high as you can tolerate during the day.
Close Up Shop
Leave your blinds down and closed. Hunker down and pretend like no one is home. Better yet, venture out to use someone else's great AC. Catch a movie, huddle up in the library or take a swim.
Pull Down Your Heat Crown
Got an attic? Us, too. Miss me with that 200 degree air circulating in the dusty catacomb of Christmas lights and rubbermaid bins. It's Oklahoma, so your living space is likely baking under a sweltering attic crowned by a dark roof. Pull down your attic access and crack the garage door 6 to 10 inches to create a passive vacuum to draw hot air out of the attic. This should go without saying, but don’t park hot cars in the garage. Yes, the cars will be hot. But leave them out. You wouldn't put hot soup in your fridge, right? If you would, you're a domesticated monster and I don't know you.
I'm Your Biggest Fan!
Use ceiling fans for in rooms someone is actually in. Presumably eating ice cream and imbibing Netflix. Check to see that the blades are driving the air down. As in down ON. TO. YOU. Someone is gonna chime in with the "heat rises, cool air sits low" and try to talk me out of the down gust method. Fourth grade, we got it. Here's why it works: A ceiling fan creates a wind chill effect and that makes YOU feel cooler but it doesn't actually make the room cooler. If your fan isn't set to jet engine speed, are you even an Oklahoman?
P-U! Heat stinks!
Use bathroom exhaust fans to draw out heat at the end of the day or during peak hours in an upstairs bathroom. CAUTION: One normal bathroom fan can clear out an entire house full of air in about 30 minutes. Or, if you grew up mid-nineties, "for 'bout thirty five, forty five minutes". Exhaust fans are for getting rid of the hottest air after the peak temperatures have passed, but if you leave it on all day it will make your air-conditioner work double time.
Get'cha a Hillbilly HVAC
In harder to cool areas, make a DIY air-conditioner using a box fan and a few ice packs laid at a 45 degree angle against the base of the fan. The ice packs will sweat, so put down a towel and don't let them drip into the electric part of the fan.
Got gunk? Your AC needs to breathe cool air in your house, but if it can't fill its lungs, you're SOL. Free up air intake capacity by using your garden hose to spray off any dirt and debris from the fins around your AC unit. Common offenders: lawn clippings and leaves. Most hardware stores also sell fin combs to help you straighten out any bumps and bruises on the fin cage. Spiders, snakes, rabbits and rodents like to live under AC units, so wear shoes and/or bring your gun. Shoes optional.
Chew-happy pets, ruthless rodents and the sweltering Oklahoma sun often damage the insulation around the refrigerant lines. Uninsulated lines can cost you about 10°F or more of cooling power. Friends, that's the difference between an uncomfortable 80 and a frigid 70 (read: ticked wife, happy wife). While you’re picking up air filters, grab some AC line insulation. It's cheap and easy to install.
Don't plant a tree right now. It'll die. And so will you. Go to Lowe's and get a sun sail to install 4 feet away from your outdoor AC units. For the long term, plant a tree or other landscaping to provide shade.
Ally is a real estate broker and research enthusiast living in the greater Kansas City/Overland Park/Johnson County metro area.