Having a hot, stuffy house can make for a miserable summer, but many people feel it is worth suffering through the season in order to save on their electric bills.
Shutting off your air conditioning unit or using it less frequently will of course save money, but you do not necessarily have to take such drastic measures. Maintaining the perfect temperature in your home can be achieved in many different ways, not just by turning down the thermostat.
Many people feel that they can either keep their houses cool and comfortable, or save money on their electric bills, but this might not be the case for everyone. Instead of choosing between comfort and affordable power bills, you can have both. Discover some of the easiest ways to cut down on your cooling costs – without sacrificing comfort in your home – below.
Do a Home Energy Audit
If you believe you are wasting money on your power bills, you might be right. The first step to take when trying to cut down on costs is to see where you may be wasting energy. A do-it-yourself home energy audit will help you identify problem areas, some of which can be repaired easily for instant energy savings.
A D.I.Y. energy audit involves walking through your home and looking for areas that may be causing your cooling system to work harder than necessary. When doing a walk-through, make sure you take these important steps:
- Check for leaks. Indoor air leaks can be found in just about any place in the house, particularly at the junctures of the floors, walls and ceilings. Be sure to check seals on your doors and windows as well, as cracked or peeling seals allow cool air to escape outside.
- Check your insulation. Heat can easily penetrate a house through the walls, roof and attic. Look for aging or inadequate insulation in all of the areas that you can see. Checking the walls yourself is far more difficult, as the only reliable way to tell if the insulation has settled is to have a thermographic inspection conducted by a professional
- Make sure your vents are clear and open. Many people believe that closing vents in some rooms will allow more air flow to come out in other rooms, thus reducing overall energy costs. However, this is not necessarily true. Most AC units work best when all of your vents are open, as the unit will not have to work as hard to deliver cold air throughout the house.
While you can do a lot with D.I.Y. tasks like energy auditing, it is even better to have a professional conduct a walk-through. Contractors and utility providers frequently perform these checks, but make sure the professional you hire is a certified home energy auditor or rater so that you get the most accurate results.
Change Your Habits
Making a few small changes to your daily routine can have a significant impact on lowering your air conditioning bill. These changes take no effort at all, but will make for a much more comfortable environment without increasing your AC usage.
First, consider using a ceiling fan when you are at home. Fans do not make the room colder, but they can help distribute cold air while also creating airflow that makes you feel cooler. With a fan, you can oftentimes feel more comfortable at a higher air conditioning setting. Second, always close the blinds when you can. This is especially important on south- and west-facing windows, which are hit with the most intense sunlight.
Third, you can significantly cut down on the temperature in your home by changing when, and how, you do your chores. Cooking, running the dishwasher, doing laundry and other similar tasks can create a lot of heat. Consider cooking outside with a grill on extremely hot days, or cooking meals that require minimal time in the oven. When it comes to laundry, try air-drying your clothes outside, or at least running the dryer during the coolest parts of the day.
Finally, consider increasing the temperature on your thermostat when you leave for the day. Simply bumping the temperature up by 7 to 10 degrees when you will be gone for work can save you as much as 10 percent on your cooling costs each year.
Maintain Your Cooling System
An air conditioner works at its best when your ducts are clean, and the AC filters are changed at regular intervals. Not only does an AC unit have to work harder to push air through dirty ducts, having buildup in your vents can prevent the air from coming out, at all. A dirty AC filter can also block airflow, making your unit work even harder. If you clean or replace your filters on a monthly basis, you could reduce your energy consumption by five to 15 percent, resulting in much lower power bills. Always check if your filter is meant to be reused or replaced, as not all filters can be cleaned and reused
Make Energy-Efficient Upgrades
In some cases, you may want to make an even bigger effort to cut down on your cooling costs. Consider making the upgrades below if you are willing to invest a little more in your energy savings.
Switch to a High-Efficiency Air Conditioner
If you have had the same unit for 15 years or more, it may be time to upgrade to a better system. When your old unit is extremely inefficient, you may find that your energy consumption is cut in half by getting a new system. A new air conditioner may cost a lot upfront, but you will enjoy the savings for years to come.
Plant Shrubs and Trees Around Your House
Did you know your landscaping can help cut down on your cooling costs? Trees can reduce the surrounding air temperature by up to 6 degrees. As a result, the shaded areas directly below trees can be up to 25 degrees lower than air temperatures above blacktop. With trees around your house, particularly along the southern sides, you can experience significant energy savings once the trees mature. For more immediate results, fast-growing shrubs and bushes can be planted around the edges of your house to help prevent more heat from radiating inside.
Get a Better Thermostat
Upgrading to a smart thermostat, or at least a programmable one, will give you far more control over the temperature settings in your home. With a programmable thermostat, your air conditioner will automatically adjust to the correct setting when you want it to, such as increasing the temperature when you are at work.
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