Living in Las Vegas definitely has its benefits, but it also means dealing with extreme heat during the summer and frigid nighttime temperatures during the winter. The summers can be especially brutal as those 100+ degree temperatures can make it nearly impossible to keep your home properly cooled if your AC isn’t working properly.
There are many different issues that can impact how well your HVAC system functions, such as the age of your heating and cooling equipment and how often you have the system professionally maintained. Another factor that most people don’t consider is the impact that direct sunlight can have on HVAC systems. With this in mind, here are the ways that sunlight can affect the efficiency and effectiveness of your heating and cooling systems and what you can do to prevent these issues.
Sunlight Shining on Your Air Conditioner
As you might expect, direct sunlight has a much bigger impact on your air conditioning than it does on your heating. In milder climates, sunlight shining directly on your AC’s condenser unit doesn’t affect it all that much. However, in places like Las Vegas that frequently experience triple-digit temperatures, sunlight shining on the condenser can decrease the efficiency of your AC system and make it much more difficult to keep your home cool.
It is probably fairly obvious that sunlight can raise the surface temperature of your condenser unit. After all, it is made of metal. When sunlight shines on the condenser, it greatly raises the temperature inside the unit. This makes the condenser have to work much harder to release heat from the building and provide cold refrigerant to the air handler inside the building.
The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that sunlight shining on the condenser unit for even a few hours a day can increase your monthly cooling costs by more than 10%. It is important to note that this number is based on an average across the entire country. This means that your energy increase will likely be far greater in extremely hot places like Vegas.
The fact that sunlight also forces the condenser unit to work harder also means that it leads to increased wear and tear on the unit. This can result in more frequent repairs and also shorten the lifespan of your AC system. Another issue is that the heat and UV rays can also quickly start to break down any plastic or rubber components inside the unit, such as washers, gaskets, hoses, etc.
The easiest way to avoid this problem is to install the condenser unit in an area that receives plenty of shade, whether from trees, your own house, or your neighbors. Of course, moving the condenser really isn’t an option unless you’re upgrading or replacing the unit. Still, you can achieve similar results by building a cover or roof over the unit to provide additional shade. However, it is important that there is plenty of distance between the roof and the unit so that you don’t restrict any airflow. Otherwise, if the airflow is restricted, this will also negatively impact the unit’s performance.
Thermostat Exposed to Direct Sunlight
An even bigger issue is if your thermostat is located in an area where it is exposed to direct sunlight. The thermostat is one of the most important parts of your heating and cooling system as it measures the temperature inside the house and signals the furnace or air conditioner when to turn on. To function properly, the thermostat needs to be centrally located in the building and in an area where it can accurately gauge the temperature inside the home.
If the thermostat is exposed to direct sunlight, it simply won’t be able to get an accurate temperature reading since the heat from the sun’s rays will cause it to think the building is warmer than it is. This means that your AC will end up running more often than it should during the summer. The opposite is true during the winter, and your furnace may not run often enough to properly heat the home. These issues will not only impact your level of indoor comfort, but sunlight can also drastically increase your cooling costs since your AC will run much more frequently.
If your thermostat is in an area where it gets direct sunlight, you should definitely contact an HVAC professional to move it to a more suitable location. The job can usually be completed in a few hours at the very most, and it can have huge benefits for your comfort, your wallet, and the health of your HVAC system.
The best location is somewhere near the middle of the building in an area that you use often, that has good air circulation, and that accurately reflects the temperature in the rest of the home. This means you should avoid areas that tend to be hotter like bathrooms or kitchens as well as hallways or any other areas that don’t have as good of air circulation. The thermostat should also never be placed on exterior walls or near any windows or doors since this will also harm its ability to get an accurate temperature reading.
Other Ways That Sunlight Can Affect Your Heating and Cooling
Direct sunlight shining on your house and through your windows and skylights will obviously increase the temperature inside the building, and the opposite is true if your home is mostly in the shade. Keeping your windows covered during the hottest parts of the day is an easy way to avoid this issue and prevent your AC from needing to run more frequently.
How much sunlight or shade the building gets is an important factor when determining what size of furnace or AC unit you need. HVAC professionals use a complicated formula to estimate how much heating or cooling output is required and determine what size unit is needed. This formula takes into account the square footage of the home, and also how much sunlight or shade the building gets. It also looks at the size, type, and number of windows in the building since this also has a major impact on heat loss and heat gain.
Las Vegas Heating and Cooling Experts
If you’re concerned about the potential impact direct sunlight has on your HVAC system, Sierra Air Conditioning & Heating can help you to identify any issues you’re facing and determine the best solution to overcome them. We are a full-service HVAC company specializing in the repair, maintenance, and installation of heating and cooling systems. Our team also specializes in indoor air quality testing and IAQ solutions. We also have a team of professional plumbers that can work on water heaters, water softeners, drains, and filtration systems. Should any plumbing, heating, or cooling emergencies arise, you’ll be glad to know that we always offer 24/7 repair services and never charge any overtime fees.
Sierra Air Conditioning & Heating is committed to providing the highest level of customer service possible, which is why we always provide honest, upfront pricing for all services. This has helped our company to earn numerous awards and recognition, including the 2020 Best of Las Vegas Gold Award. We are locally owned and operated and have been proudly serving customers in the Las Vegas area for more than 30 years. Contact us today if you have any questions or need to schedule a service appointment.