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Building Science

Simple Steps to Improve Air Conditioner Performance

If your air conditioner struggles to keep up in the heat, these measures can help

Keeping cool with your air conditioner is possible, even when you think it's not. Check these things and you may be able to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of your AC.
Image Credit: Qfamily, from

It’s getting hot out there. Here in the Southeast, we love our air conditioning.  In fact, without air conditioning, far fewer people would live in places like Houston, Hattiesburg, and Sopchoppy. And that’s true for the hot, dry places, too, like Phoenix, El Paso, and Boron.

So if we’re going to have air conditioning in our homes, we want it to work.  It should be effective and efficient.  It should keep us cool without creating new problems, such as excessive noise, bad indoor air quality, or comfort that varies from room to room.

But sometimes it’s not so effective or efficient.  Let’s say you have an existing home and have noticed a sudden change in your air conditioner’s cooling. Or maybe instead you’ve felt a gradual diminution of its ability to keep you comfortable.  The possible causes of poor performance can be divided into two groups: heat gain and heat removal. Let’s take a look at them separately.

Reducing heat gain

If you think your air conditioner should be cooling better, don’t assume the problem is with the equipment. It could be your house. Here are some ways that you may be able to reduce the heat gain.

Seal the air leaks.  Leaky houses are harder to cool. If you have an older house that’s never been air-sealed, this may be a big part of your heat gain problem, especially if you have leaks from the attic.  If you haven’t had a blower door test, get one. 

Add insulation. Check the attic first. That’s where the highest temperatures are.  If your attic insulation is less than would be required for a new home in your area, add more. But don’t insulate…

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