As a rite of passage of sorts into summer, we reach for the air conditioner to relive ourselves from the temperature and humidity of summer. Despite not having the glamour about it like electronic devices, no doubt air conditioning is one of the best aspects of modern living. However, like heating in the winter, our air conditioners are a significant portion of our electric bill. According to ComfortPro, an average air conditioner window unit (900W) can cost $62/month each! A small 500W unit can cost $35 while a large window unit (1440W) can cost $100 per month. Add three or more in the house, and it becomes apparent how costly A/C can be. Last but not least, a central air conditioning system can be $245 per month! Why not find cheaper and simple ways to use less A/C?
The following is a list of ways you can reduce your A/C use:
- Plant trees and shrubbery around your house. Most of your home’s heating comes from the sun warming it up, so simply planting trees can block the sun, particularly if it also shades the air conditioner. This prevents it from running more often.
- Windows should be properly rated for their climate. Two labels on energy efficiency include the U-Factor and Solar Heat Gain Coefficient (SHGC). The lower the U-Factor, the better the window is in insulation. Likewise, a low SHGC rating means less heat gets inside the house.
- Properly weatherize the home to plug cracks and leaks, including insulating the attic. In southern climates, a reflective roof can bounce the sun away from your house.
- Make sure there are no air leaks around window units.
- Window screens not only keep out the bugs, but they also absorb 70% of incoming heat.
- Using blinds, awnings, and curtains can further prevent heat from entering into the home. If you’re a DIY type, you can even automate the blinds and curtains to open or close based on outdoor conditions or the time of day.
- A programmable thermostat can set the temperature throughout the day, allowing you to have it automatically turn off when you’re not home. Not only that, but by raising the temperature of the thermostat at night, you can save 5-15% on your bill. Also note that each degree below 78°F will increase your energy use by 3-4%
- A ceiling fan can make the air feel 3-8 degrees cooler by blowing hot air away from your body which is always emitting heat. This heat envelopes you and can make it feel hot. Make sure the fan is rotating counter-clockwise as seen from below it. That way the air is blowing downward (you should be able to just feel it too). Also close windows near the fan and open the ones further away. This forces the hot air out of the room or house. If you have a two story home, opening the downstairs windows forces the air down and out. Fans can cost less than a penny per hour to run vs. an A/C that can be up to 7-8 times as much.
- Avoid hot meals on hot days. Try having a wrap, salad, or other cold entrees. Using the oven on summer days can make me sweat! At least use the exhaust fan to expel the heat outdoors. The same can apply when after taking a shower.
- Do cooking and laundry when it’s not the hottest time of the day. By doing these in the early morning or night, this takes a load off your A/C by lowering the midday temperature for an already hot home.
- When it’s a clear night, low night time temperatures occur as heat rises into the atmosphere. When it’s cool out at night, open the windows instead of running the A/C.
- Turn off the lights when leaving a room. Simple advice I know, but lights and other electronics left on generate heat. I noticed a hotter room when I put in a large screen TV, felt the back vent of the TV, and was surprised at the heat coming out. Smart Tip: using motion sensors can turn off the lights, and smart power strips can completely shut off electronics which means no phantom loads. Appliances use electricity when off as long as it’s connected to an outlet. This can be up to 20% of your monthly electric bill!
- Cold packs can be placed under your pillow or seat cushion to cool you down.
- Bed fans circulate air under your sheets to cool you down during the right. Remember, it’s easier to cool yourself down than a whole room.
- Buy an air conditioner that’s sized properly with a high energy efficiency rating (EER) for the space it’s cooling down.
- Clean the evaporator coil before the summer and as needed.
- Replace the filter every 1-2 months can save 5-15% on energy use.
- Are the fins on the back of the air conditioning bent? They can block airflow, but you can use a fin comb to get them back in place and improve the efficiency.
- A stiff wire can be used to unclog the drain channels. If left blocked, excess moisture cannot be removed from the room, causing a discoloration on the carpets and walls.
- A cold shower, bottle with spray, or a huge ice cube on your head can also cool you down…
As you can see, a combination of routine maintenance and proper measures to reduce heat getting into the house can go a long way reducing energy use and consequently the cost on your wallet to pay for the electric bill. Other methods include more localized cooling (bed fans, cold packs) and smart technology like thermostats and power strips to manage the air conditioning and electronics respectively. Also try to do activities that heat the home like cooking and laundry at morning and night. Everyone can benefit from attempting even a few of these and save up to 50% on your cooling bill. Well, I guess most places can benefit…