Last summer, a window air conditioning unit in a New York apartment fell 20 stories onto a playground at a nursery school. No children were injured, but the incident garnered public attention to A/C safety concerns.
According to the maintenance staff at the complex, it was the tenants’ responsibility to buy the window unit and install it themselves. Many tenants never knew how to properly install or maintain their air conditioners. They received no assistance from maintenance workers.
It is important to understand the safety precautions for installing and maintaining your air conditioner. While it protects us from heat-related illness and death, it can also be hazardous and, in some cases, fatal. Listed below are some helpful tips on how to properly purchase, install, and maintain your air conditioner.
When looking for an air conditioner, check for the UL Mark. Underwriters Laboratories (UL) is responsible for analyzing the safety of wire and cable, as well as electrical and electronic products in North America.
Decide whether your home requires a window unit or central air conditioner. Window units work best for small spaces. If you only occupy one room at night, you only have to use one unit. Central air works better for larger homes and costs more to install. The type of cooling system depends on your behavior and what works best for you.
When installing a window unit, mount it far away from any heat sources. Avoid damp locations and areas where furniture or curtains could restrict air flow. Also, don’t install a window unit on top of a surface that is unable to support the weight of it.
You should have a professional install your central air conditioner. While you can begin the installation process yourself, there are laws regarding refrigerant handling, so have a contractor finish the job. Be sure that the contractor is licensed and get estimates from a few companies. Check the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation before contacting anyone.
You can try to camouflage the outside unit, but keep all plants and shrubs at least two feet away from it.
Have your air conditioner inspected and cleaned before every summer. If you don’t know how to properly clean it, call an expert. If cleaning the units yourself, be absolutely sure that the power is turned off and refer to your owner’s manual.
Change out filters on a monthly basis during the months of heavy-use (April through August).
Don’t allow your space to become hot and then set the A/C on maximum power; instead, run the unit early in the day and allow it to gradually cool your space.
Use your exhaust fans in the kitchen to avoid adding unnecessary moisture and heat. Your air conditioner doesn’t just cool your space, it also dehumidifies.
Keep your attic well-ventilated. During the summer, temperatures can reach up to 140 degrees in the attic.
If using a window unit, don’t connect it to an extension cord. The power strip cannot handle the heavy flow of electricity.