Keep cool for less! Here are some simple ways to lower your summer cooling costs without sacrificing comfort.
- Set the air conditioning thermostat at 78 degrees or your highest comfortable setting. Higher settings cost less; lower settings cost more. Each degree up or down makes a big difference in cost. Raise the temperature 2 or 3 degrees higher than your normal setting when you’re away on weekdays.
- Don’t try to speed-cool at a very low temperature setting when you return home from work or school. Choose your normal evening setting, for example 78 degrees. Your AC won’t cool any faster set at 68 degrees than it does at 78 degrees. Set to a lower temperature, it only cools longer, not faster.
- Always set the AC thermostat fan selection to “AUTO” rather than “ON.” Set on AUTO, humidity is kept lower, costs are lower and comfort is higher. When set to “ON,” the fan is always on, costs are higher, humidity is higher and comfort is lower.
- Turn off your cooling system and open your windows while sleeping. When you wake in the morning, shut the windows and blinds to capture the cool air.
- Close shades, drapes and blinds during the day. Block the sun’s heat.
- If you have ceiling fans, run the fans and the air conditioner at the same time, but set the air conditioner thermostat a few degrees higher. A fan’s breeze on your skin increases evaporative cooling. You’ll feel cool at a higher room temperature, which can save a lot: Raising the thermostat setting only 2 or 3 degrees reduces your air conditioning costs 20-30% or more.
- Turn off fans when you’re away. A fan’s motor adds a small amount of heat to a room, about like a small light bulb. The breeze cools your skin, but not the room or the furniture. Only run fans when you’re there to feel the breeze.
- Use a microwave oven instead of the range/oven, or cook outdoors. The microwave won’t heat up the kitchen.
- Change the air conditioner’s air filter monthly during heavy use. When the filter is clogged, air flow is restricted and your cooling costs rise. A badly clogged filter can lead to compressor failure with a $1,000+ repair bill!
- Clean the dryer lint filter frequently and check the outdoor vent opening. When lint builds up and blocks airflow, drying takes longer, which costs more.
- Use ENERGY STAR® labeled products.
- Install compact fluorescent light (CFL) bulbs in place of standard incandescent bulbs. Compact fluorescent bulbs use about two-thirds less energy than a standard incandescent bulb and last up to 10 times longer.
- Keep lamps or TVs away from your air conditioning thermostat. The thermostat senses heat from these appliances, which can cause your air conditioner to run longer than necessary.
- Turn off lights as you leave a room. Lights add a lot of heat to rooms, causing longer air conditioning operation, which increases costs.
- Wash clothes in cold water. Almost all the cost of clothes washing is to heat water. Newer enzyme detergents perform best in cold water.
Spring servicing for your air conditioner
Central air conditioners and heat pumps need preventative maintenance, just like your car. Get a spring checkup! Annual servicing by a qualified heating-and-air technician can reduce your operating costs. Of particular concern:
- Duct leakage. Most central ducted systems leak! Small air leaks near the end of a duct cost you a little, but small leaks near the air distribution fan (where air pressure is highest) can cost you a lot. And more often than you’d think, ducts under a house or in an attic are completely detached, breezing cool air to the outdoors. Duct repairs lasting a lifetime are generally made using a gluey paste called mastic.
- Refrigerant charging. Your central air conditioner or heat pump requires a carefully measured amount of coolant. High efficiency systems need an exact, correct charge of refrigerant. Either an overcharge or undercharge lowers a system’s efficiency and can shorten its life.
- Dirty coils. Dust and grime build up on your air conditioner’s internal cooling coils. All the air in your house is pulled across these cold surfaces. The cleaner the coils, the better they remove heat from the passing air. Ask your service technician to check the evaporator coils this spring and clean them if necessary!