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How to spend the most and get the least from your air conditioner this summer

SALT LAKE CITY — Summer is upon us, bringing
barbeques, water slides, fireworks and, yes, huge cooling
bills. As a homeowner, you know that the electric bill can
make your heart pound like a fresh tin of strawberry pie
— but in an entirely different way.

As astronomical as the power bill can get in the summer,
most of the cost increase stems from your air conditioning
system. Let’s assume for a moment that you feel
generous and wish to contribute to the economy by paying
the most you can to cool your home. This way, the electric
utility gets more of your money and, well, nobody else
benefits. If this is your goal, you can do that by
following these few simple steps.

Make sure your air conditioner compressor is

Your air conditioner needs to collect air from the outer
grills and exhaust that air above the unit. To minimize
effectiveness, set plants directly against the unit, or
within 18 inches of the grills. If plants are there, air
can’t move into the grills and the unit becomes much
less efficient. This will go a long way toward making your
bill skyrocket.

If you would rather not spend the money on plants, you can
do the same with weeds. Allow leafy or viney weeds such as
crabgrass or morning glory to climb in and around the
grills. They can also choke off the grills in a short
period. Voila! Job done.

But if you’re not into greenery, you can accomplish
the same thing simply by not taking care of the grills.
For example, if you have a lot of dust in the air —
or if you have cottonwood trees in your yard or
neighborhood — much of the work can be done for you.
Just allow the dust and cotton to fill your grills. Make
sure you never wash the grills out. It’s a tempting
step and so easy: all you would do is turn off the a/c for
a moment when you’re barbequeing, and wash the
grills off with the hose. It could be done once or twice a
year. Remember: resist the urge. If your goal is
inefficiency and high costs, washing off your grills is

Still another way to make your A/C compressor inefficient
is to mash and bend the grills with a hammer, with rocks,
or whatever children in your neighborhood may use. If a
large part of your grills are damaged, the job is done:
your goal to pay a maximum cooling bill is almost met.

Make sure the furnace is hammered

You can still do more to give the utility company your
money. Inside your home lies another key part of your A/C
system. The furnace takes cold gases generated by the
compressor, captures the temperature of those gases and
sends the cold air through your home. To thwart this
process, there are a few key steps you must take.

Efficient furnaces rely heavily on clean filters. To clean
out your wallet of all the money you can, make sure you
ignore the filter. Whatever you have, leave it there. Let
it get clogged with construction dust, dog hair, smoke and
paint spray. After all, everyone else is doing it —
why be different?

Another advanced method of cash disposal is to go buy one
of those cheap 30-day filters and leave it in for years.
The nice thing about the really cheap filters is they do a
poor job from the beginning and allow much of the dust to
flow right into the furnace. Buy a 30-day filter. Then, as
the godfather would say, “Forget about it.”

Another tried-and-true technique is to place the filter in
a position where it won’t do its job. For example,
if your filter is laid horizontally, make sure it’s
not held in place. It looks good laying there while the
furnace is off, but when air flows into the furnace area,
this filter will lift like a boat, allowing the air right
around rather than through the filter. This results in a
dirty and inefficient furnace and will certainly help you
clean out your wallet. As an added bonus, dirty furnaces
age more rapidly. The dirtier you can get your furnace,
the sooner you will need to replace it. This will also
help the rest of the nation’s economy and destroy yours.

Contribute to your own economy

There is another choice. Rather than contribute in this
way to the economy out there, you could contribute to your
own. Rather than burn money like marshmallows at a Boy
Scout campfire, take a few inexpensive and simple steps.
Keep your compressor clear, your furnace filter clean and
your furnace composed. Excessive heat this summer should
be what gathers on your barbecue, not in your home.

Garth Haslem is a home inspector with 20
years experience. He is also an author and a regular
contributor to Deseret News and KSL. To learn more from
Garth, please like “Garth Haslem – the Home Medic” on
facebook or go to