Cut Down Your Air Conditioning Costs This Summer
As temperatures rise over the summer, many people will turn on their air conditioners and fans — but they may not feel so cool when they get the electric bill. You don’t necessarily have to choose between a comfortable home and sticking to your utility budget, though. Consider these tips for helping to cut down your air conditioning costs this summer.
Use Your Air Conditioner Efficiently
If you rely on your air conditioner to do the bulk of your home’s cooling, there are a few steps you can take to help maximize its effectiveness and potentially reduce your costs.
Set Your Thermostat at a Higher Temperature
Set your thermostat just low enough to stay comfortable. The Department of Energy (DOE) recommends keeping it at 78 degrees while you’re home and higher while you’re away. The closer your indoor temperature is to the outside, the lower your cooling costs should be, according to the DOE.
Install a Programmable or Smart Thermostat
Taking advantage of the features of a programmable thermostat may help reduce air conditioning and heating costs over the course of the year by up to 10 percent, says the DOE. You can set your thermostat to automatically adjust at specific times of the day. For example, The Family Handyman recommends programming the thermostat 4 to 6 degrees higher during the times you’re away at work and having it go cooler just before you come home. You could also consider a smart thermostat, which you can control with an app on your smartphone or tablet.
Maintain Your Air Conditioner
The Family Handyman says a poorly maintained air conditioner may use up to 30 percent more energy. Have a professional tune-up the system every two to three years. You should also make sure the filter is clean and replace it as necessary, says BobVila.com. Read your air conditioner’s manual for guidance on how often the filter should be changed for optimal performance.
Reduce Your Need for Air Conditioning
There are some simple steps you can take to help keep your home cooler, which may reduce your need for air conditioning or at least help prevent the system from being overworked.
Ceiling and room fans can considerably reduce your cooling costs — either on their own or as a complement to air conditioners. In fact, says the DOE, using a fan may allow you to set your thermostat about 4 degrees higher without changing your comfort level. BobVila.com notes that ceiling fans should be set to move counterclockwise during warmer months, as this will cool you by pushing air down. Remember to turn off fans when you leave the room, though.
Avoid Adding Heat
Using ovens, hair dryers, computers and incandescent lights can increase the temperature of your home, says the DOE, so try to reduce their use as much as possible. Make sure you’re washing full loads of laundry or dishes, and, on the hottest days, try using the stove, microwave or the backyard grill instead of the oven.
Ventilate and Shade
Close curtains and blinds during the day to help keep the sun from heating up the house, says BobVila.com. If it is cool at night, turn off the air conditioner and open the windows, recommends the DOE. Shut the windows, shades and blinds again in the morning to help keep the cool air indoors.
Seal Leaks and Insulate
Preventing air leaks can help keep your home cool and, according to EnergyStar.gov, also keep your energy bills lower. Seal windows, doors and cracks to help ensure hot air isn’t leaking into your home, says the DOE. The Family Handyman also recommends sealing duct work to keep the cool air from leaking into the basement, crawl space or attic. You may also want to insulate any duct work running through the attic.
As the temperatures rise this summer, you may be able to stay comfortable without your cooling bills going sky high. From using fans to maintaining your air conditioner, these tips can help you keep your home cool without breaking the budget.
Originally published on September 1, 2014.