Does putting an umbrella over your AC unit really help lower your electric bill?

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FORT MYERS, Fla. – It’s summertime in Florida. That means two things: it’s hot outside and air conditioners are working extra hard to keep it cool inside.

With the rising cost of electricity across the country, shaving a couple bucks off your bill might sound like a good idea.

“Our last one was about $200 higher than it’s been,” said Nick Becker of Cape Coral.

One idea swirling around on Southwest Florida social media pages is to put an umbrella over your outside AC unit to cast a shadow on the machine.

The idea is by keeping the outside portion of the unit, called the condenser, in the shade, it wouldn’t have to work as hard to cool the air thus saving you some money on the electric bill.

But will it really help?

We set out to investigate. Helping to get to the bottom of the theory is air conditioning expert Gordon Durant of Crowther Roofing & Cooling.

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“Right now I’m hooking up the gauges so that I can check pressure and temperature relation,” Durant said as he hooked up meters to an air conditioning unit sitting in the sun.

The meters are connected to a computer that outputs readings that Durant reads to see if the A/C unit is running correctly.

According to the numbers he was getting, the unit used for the test was working efficiently. So an umbrella was placed over it and Durant waited 30 minutes before taking another test.

Will it help make the unit run more efficiently? Becker wasn’t too optimistic about it.

“It may help a minuscule but not enough as the effort it takes to put the umbrella out there,” Nick Bekcer said.

After waiting the half hour of the unit working with the umbrella overhead, the results came in.

Gage: “Are we seeing any difference on the meters?”

Gordon: “Absolutely no change.”

Gage: “Nothing at all?”

Gordon: “Not a bit.”

Gage: “So my umbrella didn’t do anything?”

Gordon: “Not a bit.”

The tests revealed that there wasn’t a noticeable difference in the air conditioning unit running in direct sunlight versus under a shade.

Durant said it’s not worth the money, but it could also make your A/C work harder.

“It’s counterproductive to what the machine is trying to perform at,” he said. “In order to make cold, you heat it up and then the removal of the heat quickly makes cold.”

There are two main factors that he pointed out as to why an umbrella wouldn’t help.

“Number one, when the sun hits the unit, it’s not hitting the actual coil, it’s bouncing off the metal,” he said. “Number two, is in essence a boiler. It boils the refrigerant first. So having heat does not necessarily mean a bad thing.”

Your A/C condenser unit also needs to breathe. The manufacturer said 18 inches all around and six feet on top of the unit need to be clear of obstructions.

Now that we know the umbrella doesn’t work, what are some ways to save money?

“Twice a year maintenance and change your filters,” Durant said. “Routine maintenance is the best way to provide longevity and a more efficient unit.”

There’s only one need for an umbrella like we used in the experiment, and it’s not in the backyard.

“Take the umbrella, go to the beach, enjoy your life,” Becker said.

Tags: A/C UnitCrowther Roofing & CoolingFort Myers

 

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