10 Ways To Lower Your AC Costs This Summer
The arrival of summer means lots of fun under the sun for many people.
However, for most homeowners, summer heralds higher energy bills, courtesy of the ever-unbearable heat that forces us to use our air conditioning systems more frequently and longer.
Summers aren’t only getting hotter. They could also potentially last nearly six months by the end of the century, no thanks to unchecked global warming.
Our energy bills are already high enough as they are for the three-month summers we’ve gone through for our entire lives.
Can you imagine your energy bills if the summer season lasts twice as long?
Then again, even as our air conditioners use about 6% of all the electricity produced in the U.S., we can still find ways to lower our AC costs this summer. Here are ten recommendations:
1. Keep the Sun Out
Nothing heats your home faster than the direct rays of the sun.
If you don’t want your home feeling like the inside of an oven--which will force your AC to work even harder--do what you can to keep the sun out.
Drapes, blackout curtains, and blinds can do the job.
Adding shade outside the house will also help in the long term. Trees with broad leaves, tall shrubs, a trellis with climbing vines should be able to shield your home from direct sunlight to a certain degree.
2. Switch to a Smart Thermostat
If you want to save on AC costs this summer, it’s best to leave your air conditioning on even when you leave the house. That way, your home will remain cool, and your AC won’t have to exert more effort--and use more energy--to cool a house that’s gotten warm again because you shut it off when you left earlier in the day.
That said, leaving the AC system on doesn’t mean you’ll have to keep it running full blast while you’re away.
With a smart thermostat, you can program the system to use less energy when no one’s home, which should keep your home cool enough to be comfortable for you when you return.
If you can buy a smart thermostat with the ENERGY STAR label on it, the better, as it can help you save 8% on your cooling bills on average.
3. Proper Thermostat Placement
Even if you have a smart thermostat, it can still be tricked into thinking that the house is warmer than it is and will alert the system to continue working to keep everyone comfortable.
This usually happens if your thermostat is in a place where direct sunlight can hit it. The same thing can happen if your thermostat is anywhere near air vents, the kitchen, windows, doors, and hallways.
To make sure your thermostat will not be thrown off by false temperature readings, place it on an interior wall.
4. Prevent Heat Buildup During the Day
The sun’s heat is more than enough to raise the temperature inside your home, but you can make it worse by contributing to the heat buildup by cooking on the stovetop, baking something in the oven, or running the clothes dryer.
Since the above activities generate a lot of heat, avoid doing them while the sun is up.
To cook food, grill them outside or settle for microwaved meals.
When doing the laundry, hang them out to dry under the sun instead of using the clothes dryer. If you have to use the dryer, do so at nighttime.
5. Plug All Air Leaks
If your home has cracks, gaps, and holes in places, you are practically cooling the neighborhood, as the air your AC system has cooled escapes easily through them.
The result, of course, is energy loss, a shortening lifespan for your air conditioner, and indoor air quality issues.
Do your best to locate these air leaks and use caulk or weatherstripping to seal them.
6. Keep the Air Filter Clean
Over time, your AC’s air filter will accumulate enough dust, allergens, pet dander, and debris to affect airflow.
Since restricted airflow makes your air conditioner work harder and longer, which leads to higher electricity use, it would be in your best interest to keep the air filter clean.
Of all the maintenance tasks that need to be done on your AC unit, cleaning or regularly replacing your filter is the one thing you can do easily enough. Do it every month, although you can opt to clean or replace the air filter more frequently if your AC sees heavy use throughout the summer months.
7. Dress Appropriately Indoors
It would be odd if you set your thermostat to near freezing during the summer, yet you and everyone inside would be wearing sweaters, jackets, sweatpants, and bonnets to keep the cold at bay. That would be a waste of energy.
It would be better if you wear shorts, tank tops, and other summer outfits indoors and set your thermostat to a more efficient 26 degrees, which should be enough to keep everyone cool the entire time.
8. Use Ceiling Fans
Ceiling fans go a long way in maximizing your AC’s reach throughout the house.
Strategically placed ceiling fans around your home minimizes the need to keep amping up the AC to feel cooler. With the way these fans keep the breeze moving through your home, everyone should stay cool even when the AC isn’t running at full blast.
9. Get Pre-summer HVAC Maintenance Done
One of the worst things that could happen would be seeing your AC break down in the middle of the summer, especially when you’ve been so dependent on it for your comfort.
You can prevent that by having your system serviced before the summer months.
With pre-summer maintenance, HVAC professionals should be able to clean your AC system and check all of its components for problems. If they find a potential problem, they can fix it immediately, ensuring that it won’t be bothering you for the summer.
10. Replace Your AC System
If you’ve been using your air conditioner for ten years or more, then you can chalk up much of its growing inefficiency to its advancing age.
AC units tend to become less efficient as they get older. There’s also the fact that aging AC models lag in efficiency compared to newer ones.
If you want longer-term energy savings in the summer and for all the seasons, you might want to consider replacing your existing air conditioner.
Once you learn how to choose a new AC unit, you should be able to acquire a highly efficient air conditioner that will be just right for your needs.
Follow the above tips, and you’ll get more than just energy savings during the summer. You will also be helping extend your AC’s life, allowing you to enjoy everything it has to offer for years.
About the Author
Rachel Watson is the Senior Content Editor of New AC Unit. Aside from heading the company's content marketing strategies, she writes articles about how to stay fit and energy-efficient home living.