Summer is coming with temps in the 90s for us here in paradise, and we all will be relying on our car air conditioners to survive. Never mind how the old timers did it before there were air conditioning or mosquito control programs. We are not Caloosa Indians, or even Seminoles. Well, some of us could be Seminoles, but we don't have to take Florida weather with all its lumps. We want our comforts. Even Seminoles want comfort. That's why they have casinos.
Following are some tips to get the most from your car AC, while prolonging the life of the very expensive machinery that does the work, and even saving a little gasoline.
When you get into a hot car that has been parked in the sun for a while, the temperature in the car can be 130 degrees. Please remember this and don't leave children or pets in parked cars. The car air conditioner takes that air into its system and tries to cool it down while blowing it in your face from the dash vents. Cooling that 130-degree air is a tremendous load on the compressor and will take a few minutes to accomplish, causing a lot of wear and tear to compressors, belts and hoses, and using extra gas for the engine. A better idea is to keep the door open for a few seconds, and roll down some windows to let the hot air out and some relatively cooler air into the car to assist the cool-down process. This results in much less work for the AC and quicker cool-down for the air in the car. There is no need to turn off the air conditioning before starting the car. The car automatically does this while you're starting it and, in the first few seconds after starting, the blower will ventilate the hot air out of the ducts to make room for the fresher air.
Many air conditioners have a feature variously called "re-circulate," or "Max," or a button might have a circular pattern of arrows on it. This feature makes the system reuse the air that is inside the car. If the inside air is already cool, this would result in less work for the AC, so if it is really hot outside and the AC can barely get cold enough, this would help get the inside air colder. It is also useful if driving through smoke or otherwise smelly areas, by not letting outside air into the car. But, if you have smokers inside the car, or just want some fresh air, you can switch this feature off, and the system will take about 20 percent of its air from the outside. If you crack a window open to let the stale air out, more outside air should come in through the AC, but because this is hot, outside air, it may not get as cold as it would be if you were re-circulating. It's just another hardship that smokers face, like eating and drinking outside of restaurants and bars.
If you have a van or SUV with a rear, or auxiliary unit, you could save some gas money by not using it when you have no passengers in the rear. It requires engine power to run the compressor, which provides that cooling, and letting the rear area warm up a little shouldn't bother front seat passengers.
With gas prices nearing record highs and forecast to go higher, every gallon saved becomes important. We all want our comforts, but it never hurts to trim a little fat when we can.