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Earth Sense: Nows the time to check your air conditioner
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Summer starts officially Monday afternoon. As always, we’ll have hot days ahead, but it won’t be like the heat wave that southeastern Asia experienced during the past two months.

April set the stage with temperatures soaring to 112 degrees in Thailand, setting 65-year record highs. In India, things got even hotter. According to, cities such as Churu, Pachpadra and Ganganagar saw the mercury reach the low 120s in mid-May, and 118 degrees was reported for Ahmedabad, a city of 3.5 million people.

Such figures are frightening when one considers the lack of air conditioning in many Asian homes. At the end of April, already reported a death toll of 300 in India, and additional fatalities in Thailand, Cambodia and Laos.

When the Georgia summer is upon us, air conditioning will be on our minds. If you haven’t yet tested your unit for the season, this should be done right away because service companies are going to be busy.

Window air conditioners are easy to check. Remove the front panel, turn the unit on and feel the grid of coils facing the room. It should quickly get very cold. If it only reaches a “somewhat cold” temperature, the unit may need a leak check and recharging.

That’s a job for professionals because some elements inside air conditioners carry very high pressure. Seal any air leaks between the unit’s enclosure and the window frame to avoid fresh heat coming into the room.

Whole-house systems have two parts. The evaporator, housed indoors, produces cold temperatures. A hose carries condensation water from the coils to the outside. Check that there’s water dripping at its end, and that the hose is not clogged.

The outdoor part, the condenser, routes heat from the house to the outside. With the air conditioner running, there should be a strong flow of warm air from the top of the device.

The coils must be clean of dirt, leaves and other debris. If they are dirty, they can be cleaned by disconnecting the electrical breaker and washing the coils with a gentle stream of water.

Ideally, the condenser should be in a shaded location. Where it’s installed on the south side of a house, it uses extra electricity by working against the heat from the sun. At my own house we solved that problem with a “tent” of shade cloth, installed 5 feet above the top of the condenser.

Rudi Kiefer, Ph.D., is a professor of physical science and director of sustainability at Brenau University. His column appears Sundays and at

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