The warm, sunny summers and mild winters make California a great place to live. However, all of that hot weather can also have a major impact on your HVAC system, potentially leading to increased energy costs and a much shorter life span for your home’s cooling equipment. The issues aren’t quite as pronounced as they are in more humid climates like Florida, but they are still worth considering. Here is everything you need to know about how the California weather can affect your HVAC system and also what steps you can take to lessen the impact.
How the Summer Heat and Humidity Affect Your Cooling System
Outdoor temperatures play a major role in determining how much energy your home’s cooling system uses, but maybe not in the way that you think. Your air conditioner will always use the same amount of energy when operating regardless of whether the outdoor temperature is 60 degrees Fahrenheit or in the triple digits. The issue is that the hotter the weather gets outside, the more quickly your home will heat up and the longer your AC will need to run.
When outdoor temperatures are relatively mild, your AC may only need to run once or twice an hour for 10 to 15 minutes at a time since the indoor air temperature will rise much more slowly. In much hotter temperatures, your air conditioner will often run for three or four times an hour and only ever shut off for a few minutes before kicking back on. In extremely hot weather, your AC may need to run almost constantly. The same is also true if your home isn’t sufficiently insulated. This will allow much of the cold air to escape and the hot outdoor air to seep inside the building.
High humidity is even harder on your air conditioner since the device also works to remove moisture from the air inside the building. If the indoor humidity level gets too high, it can make it nearly impossible for the AC to ever keep up. This is because the more moisture there is in the air, the higher its temperature will be.
Both high heat and high humidity can greatly increase the strain on your air conditioning system, causing it to run much more often and for longer each time. This not only increases your energy bills but also leads to much more wear and tear on your cooling equipment. As a result, air conditioners typically have a shorter life span in hotter climates than they do in places with milder summers.
The average life expectancy for central AC units is around 15 years, while heat pumps typically last anywhere from 8 to 12 years. However, in California and other hotter climates, these average life spans are usually a few years shorter.
How California Winters Affect Your Home’s Heating
While the hot California summers will usually lead to higher energy costs and a shortened life span for your cooling system, the milder winters will have the opposite effect when it comes to your heating equipment. Unless you live higher up in the mountains, you probably don’t ever need to run your heating system for more than a few hours of the day during the winter. In many parts of California, you may only need to rely on your heating system a few times a month.
This means that your heating bills will obviously be far lower than they would be in colder, more northerly climates. The mild winter weather also gives you far more heating options. Most homes in frigid climates rely on gas furnaces as they tend to be the most efficient and effective in extremely cold weather. However, in California and other places with milder winter weather, you have the option to instead use an electric heat pump to keep your home warm.
Heat pumps are by far the most energy-efficient heating option in warmer climates, and they also have the added advantage of being able to both heat your home in the winter and cool it during the summer. Compared to using a furnace or other type of electric heating, a heat pump has the potential to reduce your energy costs by anywhere from 30% to 60% or more.
How Salty Coastal Air Impacts Air Conditioners and Heat Pumps
Even though Sacramento is around 70 miles from the coast, the salty sea air can still have a major effect on outdoor HVAC units like air conditioners and heat pumps. Studies have shown that some salt from sea air can be detected as far as 900 miles away from the nearest coastline. However, it has the biggest effect within the so-called “salt intrusion zone” that extends around 140 miles inland from the coast.
Areas within this zone are much more prone to issues with corrosion caused by all the salt in the air. Salt is naturally corrosive and will always collect on anything outdoors located within this zone. That includes your air conditioner or heat pump. If you live in the Sacramento area or anywhere else within 100 miles or so of the coast, the fact is that your outdoor HVAC equipment will generally always have a shorter life span than it would have further inland.
Although there is nothing you can ever do to fully overcome this issue, having your air conditioner or heat pump professionally cleaned and maintained regularly can still limit the amount of damage all that salt causes to the unit. If you neglect to have your unit maintained at least once or twice annually, there is a good chance that it will quickly begin to suffer from issues with rusting and corrosion within just a few years. In some cases, you’ll be lucky if you get more than six or seven years out of the unit before its performance drastically suffers and it eventually needs to be replaced.
Overcoming the Impact of Weather on Your HVAC System
Regular HVAC maintenance is the single biggest factor in preventing the California weather from having a major impact on your heating and cooling equipment and also on your energy bills. Without regular maintenance and cleaning, the effectiveness of all HVAC systems quickly begins to suffer. This leads to the system running for longer periods, putting more and more strain on the HVAC unit and increasing energy costs.
Cleaning the HVAC units and all of the components is an essential part of maintenance that can prevent many common issues that affect both performance and energy efficiency. HVAC maintenance also includes a full inspection of the entire system to ensure that there are no issues that need to be repaired and that everything is working exactly as it should. Even seemingly small problems can have a major impact on how well the system performs, how much energy it uses, and how long the various components will last.
At Huft Home Services, we specialize in HVAC maintenance. We can help you save money on your energy bills and ensure your home stays comfortable year-round. We service and repair all types of HVAC units, including air conditioners, heat pumps, furnaces, and ductless mini-splits, and we also specialize in heating and cooling installation. In addition, we offer a full range of plumbing and electrical services in Sacramento, Elk Grove, Yuba City, and the surrounding areas. To receive more information or schedule any HVAC, electrical, or plumbing service, give us a call today.