It sure took its sweet time getting here, but summer has come on full strength over the last month or so. Many of us have been turning to our A/C units to make our living and working environments more comfortable. Are you dreading the electricity bill sure to follow these hot months of summer? Here are some easy, low or no cost tips to help you save energy and still stay cool.
Running fans to keep air moving can make a room feel several degrees cooler just by the wind-chill effect. Fans make an area feel much more comfortable, and assist your A/C unit with moving cold air around. Ceiling fans do an even better job at dispersing cooled air, increasing its efficiency and even allowing you to raise the thermostat a few degrees on your air conditioner, further saving you some energy costs. Because fans do not actually cool on their own, always turn them off when you are not in the room to save additional electricity use.
You can save in excess of 10% on cooling costs if you manage the thermostat for your air conditioner with a bit of intention. Instead of cranking it down to a super low temperature to tame the heat (which doesn’t cool a room any faster), experiment until you find the highest acceptable temperature. Also install a programmable thermostat to increase the temperature when you are not home, or in certain areas of the house, and you can keep the heat at bay without excessive cooling efforts. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, setting your A/C’s thermostat to 78° instead of 72° can save you as much as 18% on cooling costs. That might be a little warm, but you get the idea!
When the thermometer is soaring, avoid any activates inside that generate heat such as baking in the oven, running the dishwasher or drying clothes. Choose instead to cook on the grill, and either wash dishes by hand and air dry or run heat-producing appliances in the overnight when temperatures are lower. Many of our modern electronics also generate a lot of heat, so avoid running anything unnecessary during particularly hot days.
Buildings get a lot of solar heat gain during sunny days. This is great in January, but not so much in August. Make sure windows are tightly shut during hot days. Install and use window treatments (light-colored ones deflect even more heat) such as shades and curtains to block the sun. Consider insulated or reflective shades, as these can reduce heat gain by as much as 45%.
Dirty, clogged A/C units block air flow, forcing your unit to work harder, consequently using a lot more energy. During use, filters should be cleaned or replaced once per month. If you have a central system, make sure your registers aren’t blocked by furniture or rugs, and routinely clean the registers of any dust buildup. Your central unit’s cooling elements, located outside, should always be kept clear of debris and plant growth, and should be checked and cleaned by a professional annually. Properly cleaned and maintained equipment always works more efficiently, and it’s well worth a little elbow grease to save 5% – 15% this season on energy expenses!