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Can Your AC Handle Arizona Heatwaves?

Lone Saguaro located in a desert filled with various greenery and shrubby, against a cloudy, dark blue sky.

Is your AC ready for Arizona’s heatwaves?

As temperatures in the Phoenix area skyrocket from 115º F to 120º F, your AC may struggle to keep you cool. Although your air conditioner might not be able to maintain a cool 72 degrees inside your home during a heatwave, there are several ways you can help it perform at its best while the heat is at its worst.

To combat the sweltering Arizona heatwaves, make sure you do the following things to help your AC:

Before we jump into all the details, let’s answer the burning question most people have: Why can’t your AC keep up with the heat?

Need an AC tune-up before summer?

George Brazil HVAC has helped Arizona residents stay cool for more than 65 years, and we’re available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to help you too. Our experienced and trusted team of NATE-certified technicians will provide a thorough tune-up to ensure your AC is ready for the heat. Call (602) 842-0009 to schedule your service today.

Why Does My AC Struggle to Cool My Home During Heatwaves?

A close up of a thermometer situated against an orange background, showing 41 degrees Celsius.

When it’s extremely hot outside, your AC won’t be able to keep up.

Even the newest and most energy-efficient air conditioners may have difficulty cooling your home during the hottest Arizona heatwaves. Here’s why:

Air conditioners constantly absorb heat from inside your home and dump it outside. But if your home gains heat at a faster rate than your AC can cool it, your system will struggle to reach your desired temperature. So, if you set your thermostat to 75, it might still read 80 or higher during the hottest summer days because it can only cool your home so quickly!

It’s not all doom and gloom, though. Although every air conditioner has its limits, following the tips below can help you stay cool during this summer’s anticipated heatwaves.

Schedule an AC Tune-Up

Annual AC tune-ups ensure that your system performs at its best, even during the hottest temperatures. During a tune-up, an HVAC technician will inspect your system, clean it, test its performance, and complete any necessary adjustments or repairs to ensure it’s in good working condition.

Scheduling annual AC maintenance will help keep your system running smoothly and prevent costly breakdowns by catching minor issues before they grow into bigger, more expensive problems. Your technician may also be able to provide recommendations for maintaining and enhancing your AC’s performance at each tune-up.

Change Your AC’s Air Filter Regularly

Imagine that you’re running a marathon in the middle of the desert with a sweater on your head. That’s what it’s like when your air conditioner tries to run in the summer with a dirty filter.

Dirty and clogged air filters make it harder for your AC to “breathe,” reducing its airflow and working harder and longer to cool your home. As a result, you’ll pay more in energy costs, and your AC will suffer more wear and tear, leading to breakdowns.

Regularly changing your air filter is one of the best ways to help your AC take on the heatwaves this summer. By switching the filter out once every month or two, you can improve your AC’s performance and reduce its energy consumption, which your wallet will appreciate during a scorching Phoenix heatwave.

Open All Your Air Vents

Small white air vent affixed in a lime green wall with a white painted strip.

Keep your air vents unobstructed and open.

Do you have any unused rooms where you’ve closed your air vents? Closing them actually does more harm than good!

Regardless of how many vents you have open, your AC still produces the same amount of air. Instead of making your AC run less, closing an air vent just forces the same amount of air through fewer vents. In other words, it increases pressure in the ductwork (think about it like trying to breathe through one nostril instead of two) and may exacerbate any existing leaks.

Since your HVAC system cools your home based on its size, closing vents will also throw off your system’s normal balance, making it work harder to cool the rest of your home.

To ease the burden on your system, make sure you open up all your air vents, even those in rooms you rarely use. Doing so will ensure your system operates efficiently.

Close Your Blinds and Drapes During the Day

Sun shining through your windows during the hottest part of the day will likely skyrocket the temperature inside your home and make your AC work even harder to keep. You can prevent this by keeping your blinds and drapes closed during the day to help trap the cool air and keep the heat out.

While dark curtains are more likely to absorb the heat from the sun outside, lighter-colored curtains will help reflect the sun’s rays back out of the room when they’re closed. So if you have white, ivory, or light gray curtains on hand, definitely swap them out to keep your home cooler during a heatwave.

Make Sure the Outside Unit Is Clear of Debris

As we said, your AC’s job is to absorb heat and dump it outside. The inside unit does the absorbing, and the outside unit does the dumping. But if leaves and cobwebs cover the outdoor unit, or a bush or fence smothers it, it will struggle to dump the heat outside.

To ensure your AC can do its best work, clear away debris from your outside unit and clean it like this:

  • Trim away any bushes
  • Get rid of any solid fencing you’ve put around the unit
  • Clean off the outdoor unit the best you can. Spray it lightly with a hose, but don’t wash it on full force because you could damage the coils

Use Ceiling Fans

3-blade ceiling fan that has white motor, light baby blue blades, and a light baby blue ceiling base.

Use your home’s ceiling fans to stay cool during an Arizona heatwave.

Ceiling fans in your home can support your air conditioner’s cooling efforts. Turn your fans on counterclockwise to suck the hot air up, leaving the cooler air to circulate below.

Once you turn on your ceiling fan, you can then turn your thermostat up about 4 degrees to give your AC a break. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, you’ll still stay just as comfortable with the breeze from your ceiling fan, so there’s no need to worry about getting too hot.

Reminder to not turn on any ceiling fans in rooms you’re not using. Fans don’t reduce the air temperature in your house; they just make the air feel cooler with a wind chill. So turning them on in unoccupied rooms is a waste of energy.

Set a Cooling Schedule

Leaving your air conditioner on is more efficient than turning it on and off throughout the day. If you turn the AC off while you’re at work or running errands, it will take a long time to cool your home down when you get back, using a significant amount of energy. Plus, keeping the AC on all day will control humidity levels in your house, making things more comfortable for you.

Setting a home cooling schedule is an easy way to control your energy usage without turning your AC off and on. If you have a programmable or smart thermostat in your Phoenix home, you can set it to run on a specific schedule that minimizes your energy consumption while you’re away but keeps you cool when you're home.

For instance, let’s say you spend most of the day at work and come home around 5 p.m. You may want to schedule your thermostat to maintain a higher temperature than usual while you’re gone, but set it to drop back down to a more comfortable temperature at around 4 p.m. so that it’s nice and cool when you get home. That way, your AC won’t run on full blast while you’re not home, and you won’t have to wait hours for your home to cool down when you return.

Consider Replacing Your AC

Woman with her eyes closed, wearing pajamas, sitting on top of her bed holding a cold water bottle against her forehead in the middle of the night.

Replace your central AC if it’s not keeping you cool during Arizona heatwaves anymore.

Most central air conditioners last anywhere from 15 to 20 years. So if your AC is getting old, it might be time to consider replacing it, especially if it:

  • Breaks down frequently
  • Requires an expensive repair that costs more than half of the cost of a new system
  • Is more than 15 years old

And if your cooling costs have gradually been increasing over the past few years, it may be especially beneficial for you to upgrade to a new system. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, even if your current one is only 10 years old, you could save 20-40% on cooling costs with a newer, higher-efficiency model.

George Brazil Can Help You Stay Cool This Summer

At George Brazil, we’ve built a solid reputation for providing high-quality, professional customer service and exceptional HVAC service for every customer. With our thorough 21-point AC tune-up, we’ll make sure your system is in the best shape possible so it can take on the Arizona heatwaves we’re likely to see this summer. Call (602) 842-0009 to schedule your service today.

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