The Essential Guide To Save Money On Home Cooling
If you’re looking for inexpensive ways to cool your home, you’re not alone. According to the US Department of Energy, heating and cooling costs make up 43% of the average family’s utility bill. Moreover, analysts say the cost of cooling a home will soon exceed the costs of heating one. Particularly for scorching locales such as Texas, Nevada, and Arizona, where it’s not unusual for temperatures to exceed 100 degrees Fahrenheit, cooling a home can be quite pricey. Fortunately, you can curb costs and help reduce greenhouse emissions by following our tips below. Read on to discover general cooling energy reduction tips, as well as advice especially for your AC unit.
7 Ways to Save Money on Home Cooling
- Create a tight building envelope. The building envelope is the “skin” of your home. It’s the place where cooled air can leak out, and where hot air from outside can infiltrate your home. The little cracks around your windows and doors may not seem like a big deal, but think about it this way: Each one is like a slow leak in your bank account. These are places where you’re wasting money on energy bills. To seal up your home’s building envelope, caulk cracks around windows. Install weatherproofing around doors. Seal up any cracks in your foundation. By removing leaks in the building envelope, you’ll automatically be improving air conditioning efficiency.
- Replace leaky windows, and/or add window screening. If your monthly bill for air conditioning your home is starting to rack up, consider replacing inefficient windows and doors with new highly efficient models. Windows and doors are often some of the biggest energy losers—where cooled air is lost and external heated air can sneak in. If you can’t afford new windows, at least apply plastic window film, which is available at most hardware stores. Alternatively, hang woven screens or shades outside of your home’s windows to block the sun’s heat. Just installing blinds or window shades can really help minimize energy costs.
- Dial back the setting and consider upgrading your thermostat. Most people just switch their air conditioners on, dial in the desired temperature, and leave it at that. This will cool your rooms, of course, but it will cost you more as well, as you’ll be cooling the home even when no one is there, and when you’re sleeping. Energy experts recommend setting your AC to 78 degrees Fahrenheit (or as high as you can comfortably stand it) and then dialing up the temperature when you’re leaving the house, and when going to sleep.
To become a true expert in miserly AC use, install a programmable thermostat. A programmable thermostat will adjust your heating and cooling according to your family’s energy habits. Some require you to input your schedule, while others (such as the Nest) are smart enough to track your family’s presence and create an ongoing schedule for maximum comfort and air conditioning efficiency.
4. Set and keep energy efficient living habits.
- Keep all windows closed during the day. At night you can open them for ventilation and switch on a fan instead of an air conditioner.
- Sleep downstairs. Since hot air travels up, the difference in temperature between your upstairs and your downstairs can be significant. If you have a basement, that’s even better! Basements stay fairly cool during the summer because they are mostly underground. If you find that you’re just too hot in the summer, try moving your bed downstairs during those hot summer months. There’s nothing worse than trying to go to sleep in a terribly hot bedroom
- Clean out all air ducts regularly. This will not only improve system efficiency; it will also create healthier air for your family.
- Apply a reflective coating on your roof. It may sound like a goofy thing to do, but consider this: black asphalt roofs soak up the sun’s heat, and passes it on to your home. White roofs reflect more heat back, meaning that you’ll need to spend less money to keep your home at a comfortable temperature.
- Turn off everything not in use: lights, TVs, computers, etc.
- Practice energy efficient water use. About 15 percent of an average home energy bill goes to heating water. To save hot water, take five-minute showers instead of baths. Do only full loads when using the clothes washer or dishwasher.
- Lower the temperature on your water heater. It should be set at warm, so that a thermometer held under running water reads no more than 120 degrees.
- Do not cool unused rooms. Only heat or cool the rooms you need; close vents and doors of infrequently used rooms.
- Don’t forget lighting. Incandescent light bulbs are very outdated now. Did you know that 95% of the energy used by an incandescent bulb is lost to heat? This also adds extra heat to your home—heat that your AC unit must offset. Replace your frequently used light bulbs with compact fluorescent bulbs and save year after year. Compact fluorescent bulbs use two-thirds less energy and last up to 10 times longer than their incandescent counterparts.
- Activate “sleep” features on computers and office equipment to power down when not in use for a while. Turn off equipment during longer periods of non-use to cut energy costs and improve machine longevity.
- Delay hot activities until the cool part of the day. Cooking, drying clothes and dish washing generate a lot of heat. Try to delay these activities until the evening, when it gets cooler.
5. Add value to your home with a new cooling system. You can slash your energy bills by as much as forty percent simply by replacing your central air unit. It may seem like your older AC unit works just fine, but the truth is that older machines are more expensive to maintain and far less efficient overall.
Older A/C systems have a SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio) of only 6 or 7, while the best air conditioners on the market today offer SEER as high as 13. That means that new machines will consume almost 50% less energy than their outdated counterparts.
Calculate how much more efficient a new system would be, and see if it’s cost effective for you, versus simply maintaining the one you already have. Efficiency has come a long way in the last few years, so it’s a good idea to check this out.
6. Insulation is key. Older homes are often poorly insulated, especially when compared to modern snug homes. If your home still feels drafty after weather-stripping and caulking, consider bringing in an energy efficiency expert to check your walls for the appropriate insulation. As mentioned above, double-paned and other energy efficient windows can also make a big difference in your energy use.
7. Plant trees around your home’s perimeter. Sun shining on your roof and through your windows makes it harder for your AC unit to keep the interior at a comfortable temperature. Planting trees will create shade, reducing the amount of heat that enters your home in the first place. Also check that your AC unit is shaded—this one step can cut your energy costs by up to 10%, according to the US Department of Energy.
Now that we’ve established general guidelines for energy efficient residential cooling, let’s turn our attention to the most important ingredient in your cooling recipe: Your AC unit. Read on to discover how to adjust your AC unit for maximum efficiency.
3 Air Conditioner Tips to Save on Your Energy Bill
- Add a portable air conditioner for frequently used rooms. If you need to cool only one room, don’t use your central air conditioning. Invest in a portable air conditioner instead. Modern portable units have a very high energy efficiency rating, so they will cool your most commonly used rooms effectively and save you a bundle. When buying an air conditioner unit, make sure that it is the right size for your room. A unit that is too small will not cool your room effectively, and an A/C that is too large will consume much more energy than necessary. See recommendations for proper air conditioner sizes for your room.
- Clean your air conditioner filter at least once a month. Dust build-ups can significantly reduce air flow and drag down air conditioner efficiency. Moreover, a dirty filter is harder on the AC unit, shortening the machine’s lifespan.
- Service your central air conditioning unit yearly. A regularly serviced AC unit will run more smoothly and cool your home more effectively, minimizing your energy costs.
As mentioned above, you should also check that your external AC unit is in a shaded area. However, you don’t want plants to grow too close to the machine; AC units need some space to breathe.
With effort and attention, you can significantly reduce your family’s AC energy costs by following the tips listed above.