Summer has just begun, and it isn’t holding back. It seems there’s plenty of heat to go around, and no shortage of days when it’s unappealing to spend any more time outdoors than absolutely necessary. So when you need your home to be an oasis for chilling out, it’s important to make sure your air conditioning equipment is functioning to the best of its ability. Otherwise, it’s wasting electricity and money, and that just isn’t cool.

Here’s a rundown of various home cooling options and tips on how to get the optimum performance out of each one.

Central Air Conditioning:  If you are lucky enough to have a central air conditioning system, don’t wait any longer to have it serviced. (Spring is preferable, but early summer is certainly better than the peak of the season.)

Central air conditioners work by using a chemical refrigerant, like Freon, to soak up heat inside your house and then transfer that heat to the exterior. Central air conditioning systems must be in tip-top shape to cool a house efficiently. When properly working, the system should produce a temperature "differential" of 15 to 20 degrees between return and supply air. This means that if the air being drawn into the system is 75 degrees, the air coming out should be at least 60 degrees. If it's not, your air conditioner is probably low on refrigerant and you are wasting electricity.

Even after servicing, make sure your central air conditioning system stays in shape by changing the filter at least once a month. At less than a dollar a piece, a clean filter can save you thousands on repairs by keeping the central air conditioning system free of clogs that can cause the compressor to break down.

Window Air Conditioners:  Unlike central systems, window air conditioners don't need to be serviced each year. One drawback, however, is how noisy they can be. It’s tough to feel relaxed and refreshed when you have to shout to carry on a conversation over the buzz of your window AC unit.

Tips to Increase Home Cooling EfficiencyA new solution is Haier’s Serenity Series Quiet Air Conditioner, America’s quietest window AC. Barely louder than a gentle rain, the Serenity Series offers world-class cooling — and produces dramatically less noise than the average air conditioner. The Serenity Series AC units, available in 6,000 or 8,000 BTUs, are Energy Star qualified and use about 15% less energy than conventional models, which could mean a savings of about $85 over the lifetime of the unit, on average.

Haier Serenity Series ACs come with an interactive LCD remote control that shows the unit settings in the palm of your hand. The units feature 3 cool/fan speeds for personalized comfort, plus auto cool to automatically adjust fan speed depending on cooling need. You can cool the room, circulate the air, save energy when cooling or reduce humidity all in one unit.

The installation of a window AC unit can make a big difference in how well it runs and how long it lasts. When setting a unit in the window, make sure it pitches slightly downward, towards the exterior, so that condensation trapped inside the window air conditioner unit will run out before it causes rust.

Next, make sure the gap between the half open window and the window frame is filled with foam insulation. This keeps both warm air and insects out of your house.

Finally, once you have your window air conditioner unit installed, the window locks will no longer work. For security, cut a stick to fit between the top of the sash and the upper window frame. This may prevent a burglar from prying open your window.

Attic Fans:  Attic fans, mounted on the roof, help cool your home by reducing the temperature of trapped warm air in the attic. If the attic is cooler, the house temperature will be lower and air conditioners will not have to work nearly as hard to keep the home at a comfortable temperature. Attic fans are inexpensive and are controlled by a thermostat that turns the attic fan on automatically whenever the attic temperature gets hot.

Whole House Fans:  Probably one of the most effective and efficient low-cost systems for cooling your house is the whole house fan. Not to be confused with smaller attic fans, these large fans are mounted in the ceiling of the uppermost floor of your home. They work by drawing air from open windows in the house into the attic, where it is released through enlarged vents to the exterior. The air flow in the house can be controlled by the number and location of open windows, as well as the speed of the fan, which usually has several settings. Also, by using a time switch, you can set the whole house fan to run for an hour or so while you're falling asleep, then automatically switch off at night, when the temperature drops.

Whichever equipment your home uses to defeat the heat, following these tips for cooling efficiency will ensure that it takes less money and energy to keep your indoor environment at a comfortable temperature even at the height of summer.

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