My wife and I are fortunate to live in a moderate climate and we were able to get by without using air conditioning until this week. I think it’s great that we can wait until mid-June before we need to turn on the AC! Before that we only had to open our windows to cool our house. We are still able to turn off the AC at night and open the windows to cool our house, which is nice, and saves us money. Hopefully we will be able to do that all year, but last summer we had a few nights that were too warm to do that.
Here are a few things I do to save money on air conditioning costs:
Air Conditioning and Fans
Open windows when possible. Up until a couple days ago, my wife and I were able to open our windows to cool our house during the day. It’s a little too warm for that now, but we can still open the windows at night. There will be some nights when it will be too warm to do this, but hopefully there won’t be too many.
Use a programmable thermostat. A programmable thermostat can help you save 10-20% on your energy bill year round. We use a programmable thermostat at home. In the summer we set it at 78 degrees while we are home, and 85 when we leave the house. We set the thermostat to cool the house about 30 minutes before we get home. It works well and saves us a lot of money.
Use an air vent booster. I installed an air vent booster last year and it works wonderfully. You install it over an air vent and it works by pulling more air into the room. This is great for rooms that have low air flow. It can save you money because you don’t have to run the air conditioning or heating system as long to get that particular room as cool or warm as you want. The model I have is the AirFlow Breeze, which costs about $50. I use it year round in a room that has low airflow.
Make sure your vents are clean and uncovered. Dust and dirt can reduce your airflow causing your AC system to work overtime and severely reduce the airflow to your room. Covering them with furniture, drapes, or carpeting will have the same effect. Make sure the air flows freely and you will save a lot of energy and money.
Use ceiling fans and portable fans. Run ceiling fans so they push the air down toward the floor. This circulates the air in your house and will help cool your house more efficiently than running the air conditioner by itself. In the winter, run your fans in the opposite direction to more efficiently circulate the warm air throughout your house. Portable fans will also improve airflow in rooms that don’t get as cool.
Use attic vents. Your roof can contribute up to 30% of your house’s heat during the summer, so it is a good idea to have fans in place to ventilate the attic.
Install a whole house fan if appropriate for your climate. A whole house fan can change over the air in your house in a matter of minutes by pulling in the cooler air from the outside and expelling warmer air outside. We live in an area where they are fairly common, although our house doesn’t have one. I am considering installing one because it will save us a lot of money in the long run – and help us sleep more comfortably at night.
Change filters regularly. You want to change the filter in your furnace approximately once a month with heavy use, or when it is dirty. Hold the filter up to the light and if there is little light passing through, you know it is time to change the filter. This will save you money by increasing airflow and allowing your AC unit to run less often and more efficiently.
Service your AC unit annually. Regular maintenance will keep your AC unit running efficiently and help avoid costly repairs, or possibly give you advance notice that something is wrong – allowing you to fix the problem before it becomes a major issue.
Buy an efficient AC unit. When you’re shopping for a new central air conditioning system, pay attention to the SEER number (seasonal energy efficiency ratio). You want a SEER number of 13 or better, or 14 or better in warmer climates. If your current unit is an 8 or lower, consider upgrading. You will probably recuperate your expense in a couple years by drastically reducing your electricity bills.
More ways to save money on air conditioning
Close shades or curtains. Close curtains on south and west facing windows during the day to decrease the solar heat in your house. To let in more light, open the shades that are not facing the sun. If you need to use lights in the daytime, use cfl’s because they are more efficient and produce less heat than incandescent bulbs.
Seal windows, doors, and gaps. Sealing your house prevents leaks and keeps your house more energy efficient. Use caulk or weather stripping, which is available for just a few dollars at any home improvement or hardware store. Also make sure your fireplace damper and dryer vents are tightly closed.
Install good insulation. Insulation will prevent your home from losing cool air in the summer and warm air in the winter and increase the efficiency of your cooling and heating systems. Add insulation around air conditioning ducts when they are located in non-air conditioned spaces like as attics, crawl spaces and garages, and make sure there are no leaks in the duct joints. Don’t forget to install basement insulation, which is often overlooked and will help stabilize basement temperatures year round.
Turn off unused lights and appliances. Lights and electronics create a lot of heat. When not in use turn off your lights and any unused electronics and appliances such as your television, radio, computer, kitchen appliances, etc.
Use heat producing appliances sparingly, or at night. Avoid using your oven in the day, and try to use an outdoor grill, microwave, or crockpot instead of the stove. Let your dishes in your dishwasher air dry instead of using heat to dry them, and use your clothes dryer at night.