Originally published on May 1, 2019
The summer months get hot but can also heat up your bill. Learn how to keep AC costs down.
Hot weather is here and with it comes the need to reduce the heat and humidity inside your home. When you crank up the AC as the temperature rises, the degrees may be dropping, but your electric bill is headed in the opposite direction.
Don’t sweat the summertime, check out these strategies for saving money and staying cool—all season long.
AC Hack #1: Maintain Your Machinery
Whether you have window AC units or a central air system, be sure to actively maintain your equipment so that it runs as efficiently as possible.
Start with the filter. By replacing a dirty or clogged filter with a clean one, you can lower your air conditioner’s energy consumption by 5-15%. Wondering how often an AC filter should be replaced? Keep an eye on monthly buildup and replace as needed. When you’re running the AC constantly, especially in an environment prone to dust or contaminants, your filter will require more frequent replacement.
For homes with a central air system, don’t forget to check the outdoor condenser coils and remove any dirt or debris that may have accumulated around the unit. Aim to establish a two-foot space between the unit and any surrounding foliage. Then, repair or replace any damaged pipe insulation on the larger refrigerant line (the suction line) that brings the cool refrigerant back to the compressor in the outdoor unit. (The smaller copper line doesn’t need insulation.)
AC Hack #2: Stop the Sun
Curtains, drapes, blinds, and film are your friend when it comes to escaping the sun. Among the most popular energy-efficient window options for blocking the heat, they’ll help you stay cool and comfortable and save money on AC costs. Choose the combination that works best for your home, especially if you live in an area that experiences both strong summer heat and winter cold. For example, tightly installed cellular shades can reduce unwanted solar heat through windows by up to 80%, while slat-type blinds can be adjusted to control glare, light, and solar heat gain.
Want to keep extra cool this year? Choose medium-colored draperies with white-plastic backings. These can reduce heat gains by about 33% if you close them on windows receiving direct sunlight.
If you live in a climate with longer cooling seasons, consider window film, since it helps block against solar heat gain while also protecting against glare and ultraviolet exposure. For maximum benefit, use film on east and west-facing windows because of their greater potential for heat gain.
AC Hack #3: Deter the Drafts
If you have a window AC unit, you’ll want to ensure a secure seal between the unit and the window frame to keep cool air inside. An improperly installed unit can leak as much air as a six-inch square hole. With the strong seal intact, make sure the unit is level so that the inside drainage system and other mechanisms operate at maximum efficiency.
In the market for a new window AC unit? Opt for one with the ENERGY STAR® label. It will use 10% less energy and costs only about $70 per year to run on average. (Not sure what size fits your home best? ENERGY STAR® has a window AC size guide.)
AC Hack #4: Tweak the Temperature
There’s no need to have your AC run at your preferred coolness setting if you’re not there to enjoy it. Using a Wi-Fi thermostat gives you the ability to set the temperature higher when you’re not around, and then adjust it once you’re heading back home.
If you haven’t installed a smart thermostat just yet, make manual adjustments that keep the temperature higher when the house is empty, and lower it to meet your comfort needs when you’re back home. This is especially necessary when taking a summer vacation!
AC Hack #5: Reverse the Rotation
Ceiling fans can help boost the cooling impact of your AC, saving energy and money. When you use a ceiling fan alongside your AC unit, you can raise your thermostat setting about four degrees with no reduction in comfort as the air movement creates an added feeling of coolness. Or, to put it in watt terms, while your central air conditioning unit burns through 3,500 watts of energy when running, the average ceiling fan uses only 60 watts. Be sure to save energy and turn off the fan when the room is unoccupied since its function is to make you feel cooler, not actually cool the room.
If you’re looking to buy a ceiling fan, start by choosing one with the ENERGY STAR® label. Fans with this label move air 20% more efficiently on average than standard models. Select the size that best fits the dimensions of your room. Your ceiling should be at least eight feet high, and the fan diameter should be appropriate to the square footage of the space: 36 or 44-inch diameter for a room up to 225 square feet and 52 inches or more for a larger room. For spaces longer than 18 feet, use multiple fans for better performance.
Maximize your ceiling fan’s effectiveness by ensuring the fan is directing air downward, which is counterclockwise on most models. Not feeling the breeze? Turn off the fan, find the switch or button on the base that controls the direction of the fan’s airflow and move it to the other end. Then test it again.
These summer hacks to keep cool will do more than just that—they’ll also help you save money and reduce your home’s environmental impact.
Have any other tips and tricks to share? Tell us in the comments.
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