We’re all thankful for air conditioning at this time of year. Part of keeping your home cool means understanding how your air conditioning works so you can help it do its job better and spend less on utilities and air conditioning repair alike. You don’t need to know your system as well as we do at Ace Plumbing Heating and Air Conditioning, but this quick primer on one of the simplest parts of your system will help keep you a bit more comfortable year ‘round.
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How Your Vents Work
Your central air conditioning has three main parts. Outdoors, there’s a condenser and compressor, which is the part of the system that cools the air. Indoors, there’s an air handler that’s responsible for circulating cool air through your home (in many homes, it’s doing double duty by also circulating hot air in the winter). Then there are the ducts that connect to the air handler at one end and terminate in vents throughout your home at the other.
There are two types of vents, called supply and return vents. They look similar, but they’re sized differently and serve different purposes. You can think of the supply vent as the one that “supplies” your home with cold or hot air. You can think of the return vent as the one that “returns” the warmer air to the system, keeping it circulating, clean, and at the right temperature.
Air Conditioning Vent Cleaning
We’ve weighed in on the topic of duct cleaning before. Short version: you don’t need duct cleaning in most cases. Longer version: just because your ducts don’t need cleaning doesn’t mean your vents won’t need to be cleaned. This is especially true of your return vents, which aren’t just pulling in air; like a vacuum, they’re pulling in anything that happens to be floating in that air, from dust to pet dander, carpet and upholstery fibers, and a number of other things, which is why your return has a filter behind it.
Your supply vents are moving filtered air, but they’ll still need cleaning. Your ducts will collect some dust over time, which can lead to dust on the vents and may also lead to a streaked appearance. In most cases, it’s nothing a feather duster or a soft, dry cloth couldn’t handle. It’s also a good idea to keep furniture, draperies, boxes, and any other kinds of obstructions away from your vents, and to keep your supply vents open so your system is as efficient and safe as possible.
A Word (or Two) About AC Filters
Now let’s talk filters. We’ve already mentioned that your return has a filter behind it. That filter should be changed on schedule — generally listed on the package or the filter frame. Mark your calendar or set yourself a reminder, but inspect the filter in between changes. If you’ve been keeping the windows open, if you’ve recently done some heavy cleaning that kicks up a lot of dust, or if you have pets, there’s no harm in an earlier change.
You may be wondering whether it’s a good idea to put filters on the supply vents. They’re commercially available, and if we’re being blunt, they’re a lousy idea. Certain filters have great filtration properties, but they also restrict airflow. If you put a filter on your supply vent, you’re going to have the same problem. That puts undue strain on your system, and can lead to breakdowns.
So, to recap: keep your vents clean, change your filters on schedule, and while we’re on the subject, call Ace Plumbing Heating and Air Conditioning for air conditioning tune-ups. If you’re diligent about those things now, you’ll spend less time and money calling us for air conditioning repair later!