Although your air conditioner is designed to keep your home cool during the heat of summer, you may find it not quite keeping up if a heatwave with extreme temperatures hits your area. In the event this occurs, the strain on the system to keep your home cool could become too much, resulting in poor performance or even a breakdown. The following tips can help your straining AC get through the heat so that you stay relatively cool until the outdoor temperatures drop.
Don't stress the system
There are two systems at risk during a heatwave -- your air conditioner and your electrical system. When the AC seems to be constantly running, give the rest of your home's electrical grid a break. Don't run the dryer or any other equipment that takes a big draw of electricity. You should also keep drapes closed, since letting in sun can heat up the home and stress the AC system by causing it to run more. You may be most comfortable in a 65 degree home, but your AC isn't going to be able to keep up with this when the outdoor temperatures are in the triple digits. Instead, aim for a cool 75, or higher if you can tolerate it so that the AC doesn't have to work as hard.
Circulate the air
Circulating cool air can further help keep you cool while also minimizing how much the AC has to run. If you have ceiling fans, verify that they are set to rotate counter-clockwise so that the air is forced down. You can also run box or standing fans to help circulate the air. Just don't open any windows. This won't lessen the load on the AC, all it will do is let the cool air out and the hot air in. Instead, keep windows and doors shut and just let the AC and fans handle the cooling.
Keep up with routine maintenance
A dirty AC is going to have more trouble during a heatwave than one that is properly maintained. Although you should change the filter monthly during the cooling season, maintenance goes much further than that. Make sure that the housing is removed from the outdoor unit and any debris that has collected inside is removed. Further, verify that the vent-like fins on the exterior of the unit aren't damaged -- you can purchase a fin comb at hardware stores to straighten them. These fins are vital to the operation of your AC. A full inspection, including tasks like lubricating the motor, should also be performed so there are fewer chances of a breakdown.
Contact an air conditioner service for more help.