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Stay cool—and safe—when the heat rises

How to buy and maintain your air conditioning system 

BACK IN THE DAY, people called air conditioning “store-bought air.” They rose before the sun and finished their work and meal preparation by mid-day to avoid the heat. Then they enjoyed refreshing breezes while they sat on the front porch. Today, with homes close together, schedules that keep going all day, far fewer trees and windows that stay closed, heat and humidity can not only be overwhelming, it can be dangerous. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, air conditioning is the best protection against heat-related illness. But you still play a big part in staying cool and safe. For example, half of air conditioner fires occur in June, July and August. A few steps can prevent that from happening to you. 

The right cooling equipment 

Select cooling equipment for safety and effectiveness, according to appliance and equipment efficiency standards from the U.S. Department of Energy. The agency’s Appliance and Equipment Standards Program covers more than 60 products, representing about 90% of home energy use. To find out more before you buy, go to www.regulations.doe.gov/eecompass. The link has tools that enable consumers to research, evaluate and compare covered products by brand and model, along with other performance attributes. 

Do not try to install cooling equipment yourself. Hire a licensed electrician to install and service all electrical equipment in your home. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for all electric-powered equipment. Only use equipment with a label stating that it has been approved by a recognized testing laboratory. 

Keeping your cool 

Once your air conditioning is installed properly, you still need to inspect and maintain the equipment regularly. Check and replace your air conditioner’s filter regularly—monthly when it’s being used heavily and every two months in the off-season. A dirty filter results in higher energy bills and potential system failure. 

Check to be sure plugs and cords are in good shape. All electrical prongs should stay in place, and the cord shouldn’t be frayed. 

Have your air ducts cleaned. Mold can grow in the indoor section of an air conditioner and can cause respiratory problems if not cleaned properly. 

If your air conditioning system breaks or is not performing properly, don’t try to repair it yourself. Call an HVAC professional. 

Finally, don’t forget to keep yourself safe and comfortable in the heat when you’re not in air-conditioned space. Minimize time in the sun, wear loose clothing and drink lots of water to stay hydrated.

JAY HAMPTON is Line Superintendent at Cumberland Valley Electric. 

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