Fast fixes for your air conditioner to help you keep cool this summer

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Our air conditioners are on overdrive to keep things cool as we struggle with stifling temperatures all this week.

The experts at Consumer Reports have some tips to maximize the cool even when Mother Nature turns up the heat.

Let's start with your AC's air filter.

"A dirty filter is a common problem for window and central ACs. It restricts the air flow, which reduces the AC's ability to cool the room," said Consumer Reports engineer Chris Reagan.

Clean it or replace it yourself - there is no need for a service call.

Window units typically have a reusable filter that you'll need to vacuum gently and then wash with soap and water about once a month during peak periods.

For central ACs, check the manual to see how often yours needs replacing. If you have pets, you'll probably need to replace your filters more often because their hair can clog up the filters faster.

Another way to maximize efficiency is to use weather stripping around window units. This keeps the cool from escaping outside and prevents warm air from sneaking in.

Location can also affect a window AC. It has to work harder if it's placed in a very sunny spot. And keep your shades and curtains closed during the day to keep the sun from adding extra heat to your house.

If the temperature seems off with your central AC, make sure the thermostat isn't exposed to direct sunlight. That can cause it to register the wrong temperature.

"You also want to be sure that your AC has enough cooling capacitor or power. Take a look at the room it's going to be in. If your unit is too small for your space, it will never keep up, especially on those super-hot days. On the other hand, if your unit is too large, it might cycle too quickly and not dry out the air and leave your space a little humid," he said.

If these tips don't work, compare the cost of a repair visit against the cost of a new unit.

If your window AC is more than eight years old, it's probably time to replace it. But with central ACs, a fix is likely worthwhile. A brand new central system can cost thousands, but the median price to repair a broken system is about $250.
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