Summer equals heat. Heat equals the need to turn on your air conditioning unit. Turning on your AC unit equals paying energy bills. The summer of 2020 has been a daunting time for everyone. With many people now also working from home amid the Covid-19 pandemic, energy bills are now at an all time high.
Three quarters of all households in the U.S use AC units and those home owners in the U.S spend 29 billion dollars on air conditioner usage. Arcadia believes that Eastern urban cities such as New York are expected to have a rise of 15% on their summer bills due to the use of air conditioner. Luckily there are a few ways you can keep those energy bills at bay. By the end of this article hopefully you will have picked a few new tips to help you save money on your cooling costs leaving you one less thing to worry about during the cooling season.
Top 10 Tips to save money on your air conditioning Costs
Check for air leaks
The older your home is, the more likely seals of windows and doors will be worn. Firstly, it may sound obvious but do make sure all of your windows are shut there as is no point having your air conditioning on if you are going to allow it to instantly leave your home/ allow warm air to enter. You can then check if your windows and doors are leaking the cold air by running your hand along the edges and feeling for cold air escaping. If you find any air leaks you will need to ensure to have them sealed using caulk and then again run your hands along the edges of the windows and doors to double check that your precious cool air is not escaping.
If you want a more accurate reading carried out you can apply for a home energy audit with either a local contractor or your energy provider. They should also be able to confirm if your attic is sufficiently insulated.
Create your own shade
Shade acts as a natural shelter from the sun. The U.S Department of Energy says that if you plant shade trees and shrubs around the outside of your home you can improve the efficiency of your AC unit by 10%. This is more of a long term solution, however if you are unable to do this, you can install blinds or curtains. For added protection; window films and mesh window screens which can block up to 70% of solar energy.
Turn up the temperature
A subject that seems to divide the nations is what the best temperature setting is for when you are not home. A senior advocate for the NRDC, Lauren Urbanek, claims that the most economical way to run your budget portable air conditioner is to turn the temperature up when you leave your home or even turn it off. The Energy Office believes that by raising the temperature by only 10-15 degrees for around 8 hours everyday you could make a 10% saving on your air conditioning bill. 78 degrees F is the suggested indoor temperature by the US Department of Energy of which to leave your home whilst you are away.
Upgrade to a smart thermostat
If you are concerned about the heat being too much to deal with on your return home after having the temperature raised on your air conditioner to save money, fear not. Smart thermostats can be controlled by your phone usually by an app or you can programme them locally to cool down your home ready for your return.
‘Smart’ is the name given to a programmable thermostat. They enable further option which will help in reducing your energy costs. When programming your thermostat setting, it will be beneficial to ‘get smart’ with your smart device. For example, you will be able to change the setting depending on the humidity levels to ensure you are using your AC as economically as possible. A tip suggested by DOE to save money on humid days is to turn the speed of the fan down. This will allow for more moisture to be removed from the atmosphere.
Carry out maintenance on your AC
It is important to clean or replace filters in your unit. This is crucial to maintain good air ventilation. The DOE recommends doing this every one to two months or more depending on if you have pets who malt or shed. Good air flow is also achieved through making sure that you do not place furniture in front of any air vents, this can create as much havoc as old/ dirty filters. Coils in AC units also will benefit from being regularly cleaned and checked for damage which will require repairs such as bent fins, as this can block the airflow.
Over time, the outside condensers and air conditioning vents can have a build up of outside debris such as leaves, dirt, twigs and plants. Therefore it is recommended to make sure foliage is kept neat by trimming it away from the location of the unit as this will reduce its efficiency through decreased airflow. In more humid climates it is also wise to ensure your unit is level to ensure proper drainage of the condensation. By cleaning and renewing the filters alone, the consumption of the energy produced by cooling your home can be reduced by up to 15%.
They are just a few simple steps that you can take to help maintain the efficiency of your air conditioner yourself, however, Ambient HVAC says that “It is recommended that air conditioning systems be professionally checked, cleaned and serviced at least once a year. Generally, best practice is to have cooling systems serviced in early spring”. Even if you have the best system you can buy, not maintaining your unit will be costing you money you need not spend. Not only will it save you money, but it can also prevent the spread of pollutants and illness – which is not what anyone wants during the global crisis that is Covid-19.
Select the correct unit
It is important you choose the right cooling unit for your home so that you are not wasting money. In choosing your air cooling unit you must consider if there are any factors in that room which may affect the temperature. For example the size of the room, the direction in which that room is facing, such as south or north as this will result in the times of day that solar energy will heat up the room and the amount of windows the area has as this may affect the temperature.
Another important choice is whether you want central air conditioning or a room air conditioner. When buying a central air conditioner it is a good idea to ensure the unit has a SEER (seasonal energy efficiency ratio) rating of at least 13, or even 14 in hotter climates. For a room conditioner unit it is advised to look for a unit with an SEER rating of 11+. The more efficient the system, the more expensive it will be, however, this will result in saving you more money long term than if you were to buy a cheaper unit with a lower SEER rating.
An alternative to a central AC system is an evaporative cooler. They are much more economical than central AC units however you should consider what climate you live in as these are only ideal for dry climates such as LA. Humid climates like Florida will typically have to spend more money cooling their homes due to the amount of water in the air.
Spend more time in the cooler areas of your home
This may not always be possible for those who for example may live in an apartment, however for those who do have basements, it may be time to start spending more time down there. This may sound gloomy at first however there are cheap options available to renovate spaces in your home so putting some life into your basement may just save you some extra money during those summer months. If you live in a humid climate, it is important not to open any windows in your basement as this can lead to condensation creating a humid environment inside. The basement may not be the only cool room in your home so evaluating where your coolest rooms are could allow for you to raise the temperature on your AC for a few hours each day.
Avoid creating more heat
During the warmer months, avoiding cooking food via stove and oven. Instead, try using the microwave, the BBQ/ grill outside or by simply preparing cold meals such as salads, sandwiches, cold soups and fruit. The plus side to this, is that you may even try some new recipes and make some of them a staple even in the winter months. Another way to reduce any extra heat being produced in your home is by avoiding using heated hair styling devices such as the hair dryer and allowing your washing to dry naturally outside rather than using the clothes dryer. Also ensure you turn on the bathroom exhaust fan in the bathroom after a bath or shower to remove excess heat and moisture in the air as well as the kitchen fan after cooking.
It is not always necessary to lower the temperature on the AC in order to deal with the heat in your home. Using a ceiling fan instead of air conditioning will not only allow the room to feel 10 degrees colder but it also only uses 10% of the energy in comparison. If you are not able to instal a ceiling fan, any fan will still give cooling effects that will result in you saving on your electricity bills.
Correct placement of thermostat
If things don’t seem to be adding up, it may be because you need to make a few slight adjustments. This primarily being where the thermostat is in your home. There are a few do’s and don’ts when it comes to thermostat placement that are very important as this will ensure you avoid any inaccurate readings. Do not place them on exterior walls, next to potentially drafty areas like a door or a hallway or area that you do not spend much time in or in direct sunlight.
The US Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy suggests also keeping it away from your TV and any lamps or lights as this might interfere with the thermostats sensors. Incorrect placement of your thermostat may result in your home being either too hot or too cold. A general rule for this is to steer away from any heat extremes. Therefore, the most ideal location for your thermostat is on an interior wall of a room you spend most of your time in. This should ensure an accurate temperature reading and therefore keeping you at the most comfortable and preferred temperature whilst also optimising the efficiency of your air conditioner. Lastly, If you have a smart thermostat it may also be useful to consider if your chosen location is within WiFi range in order to fully utilise the smart remote features.
There is a range of information, tips and advice above that hopefully can help you save money to cool your home through the usage of air conditioner. It is important to make sure you are being as energy efficient with your air conditioner use as possible in order to save money. By evaluating your air conditioning use and using the tips above you should be able to decrease your cooling costs. Make sure you give any changes you make a few months before giving up as even just the little changes like setting your thermostat to 78 degrees whilst you’re not at home or installing ceiling fans can save you a lot of money on your cooling costs.