Home Improvement

Help! It’s 86 degrees in my living room!

By May 26, 2019 23 Comments

We bought a 1962 ranch style, cinder block construction home two months ago. As the weather is heating up, our air conditioner can’t keep up. It’s 100 degrees outside today and a disgusting 86 degrees inside, despite the air unit running constantly since early this morning and a dozen fans circulating throughout the house. It literally feels cooler on the porch than on the couch.

We’ve had two experts look at the unit and both said it’s in good condition. A thermometer held at the vent confirms that the incoming air is indeed a crisp 72 degrees. Can anyone recommend the best course of action? We are debating whether an attic fan or additional insulation will have the most impact. Of course our funds are limited so I want to spend money where it will have the most impact.

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  • stuckandrunningfrom says:

    Do you have your shades closed? Is your house well insulated?

    The only time my AC ran like that was when the filter was horribly clogged, but if you’ve had 2 people out to look at it, I’m guessing the filters are fine.

  • nineteenhand says:

    Air leaving the vents at 72 is a problem. What is the temperature of the air as it leaves the air conditioner? Anything over 60 and that’s your problem.

  • arizona-lad says:

    Check to see if your local power company offers free or low cost energy audits. If so, take them up on it.

    On the face of it, it sounds like an insulation problem, not an A/C problem. Cinder block absolutely sucks for it’s R-value. I think a an 8-inch thick block wall without any other type of insulation has a thermal resistance value between R-1.9 and R-2.5. What a joke….

    I own a 1963 MCM, and had to do major insulation upgrades to be comfortable. Before, the A/C would turn on in March and shut off in October. The bills were horrendous. Now that I’ve re-insulated the ceiling, and replaced the single pane windows with desert-rated dual pane units, my power bill is $1200 a year lower, and the comfort level is awesome.

    As an added bonus, the house is much quieter. The old windows not only leaked air, but sound as well. Not any more, I’m happy to say.

  • frugal_lothario says:

    The AC can’t keep up because the house is too hot to begin with. Start with insulation. We installed [whirlybirds](https://www.homedepot.com/b/Heating-Venting-Cooling-Ventilation-Roofing-Attic-Ventilation-Attic-Fans-Wind-Turbine/Whirlybird/N-5yc1vZc665Z6x5) and the attic temps dropped 10 degrees. Look into how to shade the house from the afternoon sun.

  • lost5556 says:

    72° out of the vent is a problem. Think about it this way: if you turned your thermostat down to 71° (which is a reasonable indoor temperature), you would never reach that temperature.

    For reference, our AC air comes out of the vent at 49°. We’re in Phoenix too, where 100° is mild.

  • CPOx says:

    Were those so-called experts the ones holding the thermometers measuring the 72F vents and calling things OK?

    Because if so, those are *not* experts.

  • nosmokingbandit says:

    Check all of your ductwork and make sure the seams are sealed up well. If you aren’t sure run a band or two of duct tape (cleverly named for just this purpose) around any seams you think might be leaking air.

  • jet_heller says:

    An attic fan will do nothing. Don’t consider that.

    Consider that maybe your A/C unit is undersized for the house it needs to serve in the area it is in. That’s a possibility. Perhaps get a good expert in to calculate what a new one should be and see how that compares to what you have. Additionally, maybe more insulation if it’s not insulated well enough.

  • SleeplessInS says:

    Your AC should be blowing much colder than 72 – when I had a similar problem, it turned out that the AC system was very low on “Freon” (or actually its CFC free equivalent). Got an AC guy to fill it up and it now blows super cold air.

  • Peabrain46 says:

    Also, fans do circulate air but generate as much heat as the electricity it requires.

    Insulation and air infiltration can be checked by experts. The ac unit should generally be blowing out much colder air (and stops cooling when it reaches set temperature).

  • 1cecream4breakfast says:

    When I had AC problems in AZ the maintenance guy (it was an apartment) wanted to see 20° difference between the thermostat reading and what was coming out of the vents. So really you want 66° air coming out of the vents, at the warmest. How old is the AC unit?

  • stapk41 says:

    So I’m an HVAC tech and generally I would expect a 20 degree temperature drop along your AC coils during regular operation. So if the ambient air temp is 75 degrees in your home I would expect 55 at your coils and maybe 58 straight out of your vents.

    It’s possible your HVAC unit is undersized or there’s a bigger issue like an airflow restriction or low refrigerant.

  • Im_Mediocre_at_best says:

    Check your indoor unit. Is it freezing up around the copper lines? Check out side unit, you should see the fan running and hear the compressor running. If the first answer is no and the second answer is yes the unit at first glance is good. Is the whole system clean including filters and condenser? If yes the unit might be under sized

  • IcarusFox says:

    I know this is only so helpful, but I use the cave technique. Make as dark as you can in there to help get the house cold in the first place. It’s a lot easier to keep a house cold then get a house cold. I buy black out curtains and put them up everywhere and it made a huge difference. I also recommend being proactive. Start cooling or airing out the house in the morning before the heat hits. Same idea, keep it cool rather than get it cool.

  • curefortheruns says:

    Are your hvac ducts in the attic? If they’re uninsulated metal running long distance in a ranch attic on a 100 degree day, the Chilled air would be picking up a lot of heat. Just a theory but it would explain an AC unit that checks out and warm air at the registers.

  • alternatego1 says:

    One of those moveable floor acs might help you out… there is no thermostat on the top floor so it doesn’t read that more is needed and it is either really hot or cold… the portable ac has been a godsend and so has a mini heater.

  • borg2 says:

    A poor man’s solution which works quite well is to put shutters on the windows. Yes, it’s dark, but keeping the light away from the glass brings down the temperature considerably.

  • vallentina777 says:

    I’m not much help on AC unit advice but I can suggest blackout curtains and checking doors and windows for air leaks. Are your windows single pane? We live in a house built in the 70s and we do everything we can short of getting a new unit, which is expensive.

  • PillPod says:

    My AC was coming out at a similar temperature the other week. I had two AC companies out and both diagnosed it as low on refrigerant due to a leak in the coil outside. Luckily it was still under warranty so I only had to pay for labor and refrigerant (which is expensive stuff).

  • GHMariner says:

    Your A/C unit is not operating efficiently. Have it serviced.

  • archaeonflux says:

    You probably want an energy audit. I’ve heard from HVAC guys that you can expect a ~20 degree temp drop from your return air to your supply air. Thing is, if the house is poorly insulated and/or has a lot of air leakage, your return air may indeed by 88-92 degrees. Do you know what the insulation is like in the attic? Air sealing in the attic can also play a huge part and is usually step 1 before considering extra insulation (if air is moving across the insulation, it doesn’t matter what R value it has). From what I’ve heard, attic fans can do more harm than good.

  • popemasta says:

    Do you have any vents in the basement? If so, consider closing/blocking them off for the summer.

  • xio23al says:

    I didn’t google ‘cinder block construction’ so I’m making assumptions through deductive reasoning here. That term to me suggests your home harbors no type of insulation, and if that’s the case then your house will never reach your desired temperature. Insulation plays a significant role in keeping your home both cool and warm, and also help in maintaining comfortable temperatures.


    As for a solution, I’m afraid there isn’t much you can do unless a lot of money is spent to fix the issue. You can try installing reflective window panels or blinds. If you plan on staying at your new home for a decade or more perhaps look into having a tree (a moderately large one) that will grow and loom over your house to help shield it from the sun (though that may be a bit pricy). If you do plan on insulating your home, I’d start in the attic if there isn’t any there already, and perhaps even have an attic ventilator or two installed up there so the hot air can escape faster. I’d also check around doors and windows for drafts and address those immediately. Having mentioned windows now perhaps check them for their efficiency. You mentioned your home is an older one so if the windows are still the original ones there’s a very good chance they’re not.


    Unfortunately, your best bet is still to have insulation installed both in the attic and the walls. Your state your funds are limited, but if you plan on making this a long term home then look at the expense as an investment instead. I hope this small bit of information can offer you with help.

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