The dog days of summer have arrived, with heat waves sweeping the country and temperatures zooming past 90 degrees. With your air conditioning working overtime, you can expect hefty utility bills.
To beat the heat while saving money, here’s our ultimate guide to keeping your air conditioning costs down. If you take these steps, you’re sure to save money on air conditioning this summer.
• Set your HVAC to the highest temperature that feels comfortable. The U.S. Department of Energy recommends setting it to 78 degrees. If that setting feels too warm, turn on room or ceiling fans to create a cooling breeze. Still too warm? Dial it down one degree at a time until you are comfortable.
• Switch from air conditioning to fans whenever possible. A ceiling fan uses 10% of the energy of central air. Whole house fans can pull cooler air into the house at night.
• Look for ways to re-seal and re-insulate your home so cool air doesn’t escape through the attic, windows and walls. Your utility may have programs that will help defray the costs.
• Don’t run your HVAC’s internal fan continuously. It uses about 500W and could add $60 to the average monthly bill. Also, the ducts in your attic and outside walls can fill with warm air, which you’re then blowing back into your living space.
• Set your HVAC to auto mode. For most homes, it will do a better job of lowering humidity, which will mean you’re comfortable at higher temperature settings.
• Make sure your air conditioner is sized correctly. If it’s too large or small, it will waste energy. Calculate the correct capacity using this worksheet from ENERGY STAR.
• Be sure to clean HVAC filters and perform other maintenance early in the summer as it can have a big impact on the efficiency of your system. Clean filters monthly to keep them working efficiently.
• If your air conditioning system is 10 years old, you may be able to save 15% on energy costs by upgrading to one with the ENERGY STAR or Energy Guide label.
• Before you buy, check out ENERGY STAR’s list of the most efficient room air conditioners of 2020 and the most efficient central air conditioners and heat pumps this year. Buying the most efficient units will pay off over the long term in reduced electricity bills.
• Set a goal for energy costs and work to reduce usage across the home, not just your cooling systems. Nearly a quarter (23 percent) of home energy is used by devices that remain on continuously, such as radon fans and home electronics. Most home electronics can be turned off when not in use, which will also reduce the heat they generate while running.
• You may be hearing about personal air conditioners but consider very carefully before buying one. These gadgets combine a fan with features like a water tank or HEPA filter to blow moist air in your direction, which might feel great in a dry climate but could add to discomfort on hot, humid days.
• Do your research before buying a portable air conditioner. Testing by Consumer Reports shows they’re not especially effective, and since they’re not subject to federal energy efficiency standards, it’s hard to compare their efficiency to a conventional window air conditioner.