Stay cool: Air conditioning tips and tricks


In typical Minnesota fashion, spring was over in the blink of the eye and summer came at us full force. Full force as in six consecutive days of 90+ degree heat. In May. Which probably means we have a long, hot summer ahead of us.

This isn’t inherently a bad thing. Not at all, given how long our winters are. But we do need to be prepared: The Minnesota Commerce Department has air conditioner tips to help you keep your home cool, while also helping you save some cash.

The Commerce Department’s Home Energy Guide features a Heating and Cooling section. This section gives you all sorts of information from how air conditioning (AC) systems work, the importance of maintaining those systems, to the energy- and cost-saving benefits of high-efficiency AC units. It also offers a range of ideas to reduce heat and humidity in your home, which will lower the energy demand on your AC system.

You can get to the guide by clicking the following links: The complete Home Energy Guide available on the Commerce Department website.

AC maintenance and repair

As with most things, maintenance is the key to longevity: AC systems should be inspected annually. Schedule an inspection as soon as possible before intense heat and humidity arrive on a regular basis (and knowing Minnesota, it may already be too late).

Proper maintenance has plenty of advantages that will improve your AC’s safety and performance, reduce energy use and electricity costs, and prolong the life of your system. The typical inspection of a central AC system should include checking voltage and belt condition, washing condensing unit coils, checking the drain line and confirming proper airflow of the unit.

What you can do

Getting your yearly maintenance inspection is a start, but is not the only thing someone can do. There are several things homeowners can do between their annual checkups that will keep AC systems operating at peak efficiency and safety. Things that could require filters for AC units in constant use are operating in dusty conditions or there are fur-shedding pets in the house.

Replacing or cleaning your AC filters on a regular basis is one essential maintenance task. If a filter is clogged or dirty air flow will be blocked and reduce a system’s efficiency.

Most central AC filters are usually located in the return duct near the furnace or air handler. Room air conditioners, such as window air conditioners, have a filter mounted in the grill that faces into the room. Ductless or high-velocity systems also have filters that need cleaning or replacing on a regular basis.

Other AC maintenance tips a homeowner can do is the following:

  • Keep the area around the outside unit free of foliage or anything that can block airflow.
  • Make sure the coils of the outside unit don’t get clogged with leaves, dust or other debris. This can affect AC efficiency. Clear the coils by spraying with a water hose, and for window units, keep filters clean, and make sure drain lines are clear and away from siding. Check for proper sealing between the window and the unit.
  • Check with your utility for cooling tips and ways to save on your electric bill. Some utilities offer energy-saver programs with lower rates for off-peak use of air conditioners. Many utilities also offer rebates for installing new high-efficiency AC systems.

Minnesota Energy Tips is provided twice a month by the Minnesota Department of Commerce’s Division of Energy Resources. Contact the Commerce Department’s Energy Information Center at or 800-657-3710 with energy questions.

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