Get the Facts: BUSTED Air Conditioner Myths!

AC Facts

1. MYTH: The bigger the air conditioner, the more comfortable I will feel in my home!

BUSTED: Oversized air conditioners may create bursts of cold air, tricking thermostats or control systems into shutting off the system before the entire house reaches the desired temperature. This “cycling” may affect your indoor comfort level, influence your overall energy costs, and end up causing excess wear and tear on the unit.

An air conditioner should be sized for your specific home by a professional HVAC technician. It is not unusual for an air conditioner to operate using long on and off cycles. In fact, this is preferred for energy-efficient performance and humidity removal. However, when a unit is not sized and installed correctly, it may cycle on and off quite frequently. This situation may not allow the unit to operate as efficiently as it was designed and indoor comfort is risked because the unit cannot remove enough humidity. While you may think that a bigger unit would seem to offer powerful cooling performance, a unit sized properly is the best option for long-term durability and comfort.


2. MYTH: I should have the refrigerant ‘topped off’ every year.

BUSTED: Refrigerant flows through a closed system. The refrigerant charge, which directly affects the performance and efficiency of your air conditioner, should exactly match the manufacturer's specification.1 Refrigerant should not be undercharged nor overcharged.

Today, there are two basic types of refrigerant.

  • R-22 is currently being phased out of use. This chlorine-containing refrigerant was a very common refrigerant for many years.
  • R-410A is the refrigerant that is used in all new air conditioner units. It’s chlorine free and supports higher levels of heat transfer that help the energy efficiency level of the unit.

You cannot mix one refrigerant into a unit that uses the other refrigerant. In fact, Ask your licensed professional HVAC dealer for help regarding the refrigerant in your central air conditioner.


3. MYTH: If I set the thermostat or control system to an extremely cold temperature, the house will cool faster!

BUSTED: Most HVAC systems’ airflow cools at a set temperature point. Once the system starts, it will reach the designated temperature sometime after that.2 Temperature settings on a thermostat or control system do not equate to the speed of cooling. 


4. MYTH: I should turn off my air conditioner when I leave the house!

BUSTED: Turning off your HVAC system when leaving the house may create problems that lead to additional expenses. It may not be the money-saving option you think. Your air conditioner plays a vital role in humidity management, a key component in minimizing indoor air quality issues. Additionally, if temperatures become extreme during your absence, it may take your system a long time to restore a comfortable temperature upon your return.


5. MYTH: The location of my thermostat of control system isn’t important. 

BUSTED: The location of your thermostat or control system can affect your HVAC system’s performance and efficiency. The device should be installed on an interior wall of your home with limited exposure to direct sunlight, drafts, doorway, skylights, and windows.3


6. MYTH: I should close the vents in select rooms in my home to save money.

BUSTED: A properly installed HVAC system is sized and balanced according to the specific amount of air that needs to circulate in your home. Closing vents may throw off the balance of your system and impact the air distribution, making the rest of the house uncomfortable.4

Before closing vents, discuss concerns with your licensed or professional HVAC dealer.  Since each HVAC system set up is site-specific, a dealer should be able to help you decide whether certain vents can be closed to reduce the amount of space in your home that is being cooled.


7. MYTH: Routine air conditioner maintenance does not affect its efficiency.

BUSTED: To keep your central cooling system at peak performance, you should schedule routine maintenance for detailed check-ups. Licensed professional HVAC technicians are equipped to identify airflow problems, system leaks, coil issues or potential concerns that may impact efficiency. Routine maintenance may often prevent minor issues from turning into expensive major problems over time and possibly extend the life of your HVAC equipment.


8. MYTH: Price should be the deciding factor when purchasing an air conditioner.

BUSTED: There are many factors to consider when purchasing a new air conditioner. The base model may not always be the best choice based on your specific comfort needs and anticipated length of time you will be in your current home. Enhanced energy savings of high-efficiency equipment can result in real, tangible returns when compared to your old unit or today’s base-efficiency models. Labor costs can also vary depending on the complexity of the installation, the quality of your existing ductwork and any regulations that may influence how much a new, energy efficient fully installed cooling system will cost.


9. MYTH: Purchasing an energy-efficient air conditioner will not save you in energy costs.

BUSTED: High SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio) air conditioners typically cost less to run than their lower SEER counterparts under the same conditions. However, multiple variables play into the energy costs associated with air conditioning use. Correct equipment sizing, sealed ducts, filter cleanliness and your home’s energy efficiency contributes to the overall expense of cooling your home.

A National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) study says that if your high-efficiency equipment is not installed correctly, it may not be running as efficient as you think!5  “Without proper installation, air conditioning and heating equipment will perform significantly below rated energy-efficiency levels,” says Piotr Domanski, who leads NIST research on the performance of HVAC and refrigeration equipment.5


10. MYTH: My house is clean, so I don’t need to change my air filters.

BUSTED: According to the Department of Energy, replacing a clogged air filter with a clean one may help lower your air conditioner's energy consumption by up to 15%. Dirty filters block airflow and can reduce a system's efficiency and performance significantly. Depending on your HVAC manufacturer’s suggestions, a filter may need a replacement every 30-90 days.  Check your filter’s instructions for recommended replacement dates.  Also, depending on where you live and how often your air conditioner runs can affect how often you should replace your filters. Your HVAC contractor can provide the proper filter replacement schedule for your particular air conditioning unit.6

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1 Department of Energy. Common Air Conditioner Problems. 28 March 2017.
2 ENERGY STAR. Proper Use Guidelines for Programmable Thermostats. 27 March 2017.
3 Thermostats.
4 STAR. Does it help to close vents in rooms not being used during the day? 28 March 2017.
5 Domanski, Piotr A, Hugh I. Henderson and W. Vance Payne. "Sensitivity Analysis of Installation Faults on Heat Pump Performance." October 2014.
6 Energy Saver 101: Home Cooling.