Brutal heat has been beating down on the U.S., and across the globe, with high temperatures reaching above 90 degrees -- and in some cases over 100 -- recently in cities like Phoenix and Las Vegas, and Beijing.
When extreme heat strikes, the best place to be is inside somewhere -- anywhere -- with air conditioning. And, indeed, the vast majority of Americans can cool off in their own homes. Seventy-five percent of U.S. households have air conditioners according to the Department of Energy.
So how can you get the most out of your unit and stay cool? We asked Jeff Martin, owner of Day and Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing in Phoenix and his brother, Josh Perry, a plumber and HVAC installer, for advice.
Here are just a few tips that Martin shared with us:
HOW LOW SHOULD YOU GO?
“So, an air conditioner is not a refrigerator,” says Martin. “The lowest I believe an air conditioner should be set is 68 degrees.”
But you may not need to go that low. Where you set your thermostat will depend on what goes on in your space. No matter the household, there’s going to be foot traffic throughout the house, leading to temperature changes.
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“I like to keep my temperature down to 77 (degrees) when I'm at home,” says Martin’s Perry. “I have a programmable thermostat that increases that number to 81 (degrees), keeping the system on during the day, but not using as much energy to keep the house cool.”
WINDOWS AND PLANTS
The sun's rays coming through your windows is one of the ways your house absorbs heat.. When choosing landscaping, consider planting trees that provide shade near a window, Martin says. Drapes and blinds in lighter colors are also good picks to help keep the heat out.
But while having beautiful plants inside your home may boost your home’s zen factor, believe it or not, too many will increase moisture and your home’s humidity level according to Martin. “So, that is going to increase your cooling costs,” he says.
Performing general maintenance on your unit isn't the most fun activity, but on hot days, you'll be glad you did.
Longer cycles of your air conditioning system running on and off, noises, water leaks from condensation and equipment vibrations are all signs that it may need servicing, says Martin.
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Also, call a technician when you experience an excessive split, an extreme difference in temperature between a home’s thermostat reading and the temperature of the air coming out of the air ducts.
Martin also recommends changing your air conditioner filters once every one-to-three months, certainly “when they turn that ashy gray.”
One air conditioner can run over some two thousand hours-per-year and should be “properly cleaned and maintained … according to the manufacturer's recommendations,” says Martin.
Follow DeForest Mapp on Twitter @deforestmapp
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Air conditioning repair and maintenance: how to stay cool in summer