If you’re picturing dollar bills flying out of your wallet every time you turn your air conditioner on, you’re not alone. According to the US government, home cooling accounts for six percent of the energy use in the average household. Although two-thirds of all homes have AC, people living in the southern areas obviously face much higher consumption rates than those in more moderate climates.
Luckily, there are many ways to reduce your cooling bills without enduring heat exhaustion or moving to a cooler location. By using your AC more efficiently, you can enjoy lower electric bills without sacrificing the comfort of your family.
1. Pay Attention to the Temperature
Don’t set the thermostat at 68 degrees just because it feels so great when you come in from the heat. For every degree you raise the setting, you’ll save three to five percent on your cooling bill. Start at 78 degrees, and drop it down a degree an hour if you still feel too warm.
Also, don’t cool an empty house. Either turn the AC off while you’re gone or turn it down to 78. That way, your unit isn’t burning dollars while you’re busy earning them.
Open your windows at night or any time the outdoor temperature is cooler than your air conditioner setting. To ventilate properly, crack a window on each end of the house to create a breeze. You also can put a fan in the window to suck cooler air in or warmer air out.
2. Keep the Cool in and the Heat Out
You’ll want to make sure everything is sealed properly to ensure maximum efficiency. Insulate and seal gaps around windows and doors, and check other areas such as the attic where cool air could be escaping or heat could be entering.
Check your air ducts to be sure they are insulated and sealed, and close vents in unused rooms. The average home loses 27 percent of its energy through leaky air ducts.
Install insulated drapes or reflective film on windows to prevent heat from entering, especially on the south and west sides of your home.
3. Reduce Heat Sources
Heat sources can be sneaky and can hide anywhere. Make sure you have adequate ventilation in the bathroom, kitchen and laundry room. These are the three top areas for heat and moisture production, so they should all have fans that vent to the outside as opposed to the attic area.
Turn off electronics and lights when you’re not using them, and ditch the incandescent bulbs. Go for LED lights if you really want to cool things down.
Also, cut down on oven use. Instead, prepare your meals on the grill or in the microwave so there’s less heat for the AC to battle.
4. Cool Yourself Instead of the Entire House
If it’s really just hot, there are ways to keep yourself cool. Dress less (or not at all!) to keep comfortable. Drape a wet towel around your neck, and consume iced drinks to chill down.
Use a ceiling fan to circulate the air, but only in the room you’re using. Make sure the fan is turning counterclockwise and blowing the air down, not up. Likewise, you can use a room-sized fan to keep the air moving in your personal space instead of lowering the AC temperature.
Consider using window units or portable units in the bedrooms at night. Portable units use as much as 50 percent less energy than central air.
If you live in a multiple story home, you can close the vents on the first floor to concentrate the cool air flow to the upstairs while you sleep. If you have drastic changes from floor to floor, however, you might consider calling a professional to perform a heat loss/gain calculation.
5. Maintain your AC Unit
Regular maintenance of your AC unit also helps cut costs. Change or clean the filter every month. A dirty or clogged air filter can add five to 15 percent to your energy consumption.
Consider adding a programmable thermostat to your system. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, a programmable thermostat will save you an average of 10 percent more than a standard unit.
If you plan to upgrade your AC system, purchase an Energy Star rated unit. Energy Star is 15 percent more efficient, and as a bonus, it may qualify for a tax deduction.
Don’t let yourself get hot under the collar when you open your electric bill. Instead, be proactive. By taking positive steps to reduce your energy consumption, you’ll be able to save money without sacrificing comfort. And with an efficiently operating AC unit, you can take pride in knowing you’ve done your part to reduce your carbon footprint!