RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – With the heat index near 100, a lot of people are cranking the air and this often leads to problems.

It also costs you more in utility bills, especially if your unit isn’t working at peak efficiency.

To keep your bills as low as possible, you need to keep make sure you are doing everything you can to keep that unit running optimally and there are several ways to ensure that it is.

Preventive maintenance will help your AC running like it just came out of the box.

“So many people are doing life, and the next thing you know the A/C has stopped,” said Clay Ewing, who is a residential field supervisor for Allen Kelly & Co. “When they check their records, they see, it’s been 6 years since we had anyone look at the thing.”

A lot of preventive maintenance needs to be done by service techs.

But, there is one simple thing you can do to help prevent the breakdown of your air conditioning unit: allow it to breath.

On the inside, you need to change your filters regularly.

Katie Andrews was buying new filters for her A/C at a local home improvement store when CBS 17 caught up with her.

“I change them once a month,” she said.

She said she makes sure she changes them otherwise her A/C breaks. “I know that from experience,” she said.

You also need to take care of the outside portion of your unit.

“You need to keep 36 inches of clearance around the unit if you can so it can breath,” said Ewing. “That’s manufactures’ spec.”

The hotter it gets — the more people like to lower their thermostat.

Freda Rogers likes her house cold and sets it at 68 degrees. “It’s comfortable,” she says.

But lower A/C temps can mean higher electric bills.

The U.S. Department Of Energy says you’ll save 3 percent on your energy bill for every degree you raise the temperature setting of your central air conditioning.

Katie Andrews is one of those who adjusts her A/C to cool less when she’s not home.

“I have a nest system for my A/C, so during the day it will heat up when we’re not home—but in the evening it’s cold,” she said.

The US Dept energy recommends these settings for best energy efficiency and costs:

  • 78 Degrees when you’re home
  • 82 Degrees when you are sleeping
  • 85 Degrees when you are at work or away

You can also experiment with settings.

If 78 feels too hot, knock the temperature down a degree and let the system adjust to that temperature for a while.

If it still feels too warm, knock it down by another degree. It’s all a matter of personal preference.