With summer temperatures on the rise, it’s time to find a way to cool down your central air conditioning expenses. There are a variety of ways to control summer cooling costs with a little added attention to areas inside and outside your home.
Being proactive will give you a jump on the summer sizzle. Here are a few suggestions that can help you stay cool while saving a little on your energy bills.
Regulate Your Thermostat. By using a programmable thermostat, you can automatically adjust the temperature according to your chosen schedule. For noticeable cost savings, set the thermostat for your air conditioner at 78 degrees Fahrenheit when your family is at home during the daytime. Adjust the temperature to be higher at night and when the family is away from home for more cost savings. According to the Department of Energy, raising the setting in this way when cooling is not needed can save you 5 to 15 percent on your A/C bill.
Plant Shady Plants and Shrubs. When plants like trees and shrubs shade your home’s air conditioning unit, the system's efficiency increases by as much as 10 percent. With sunshine on your roof and through your windows being the direct source of heat coming into your house, it is wise to plant leafy trees around your home. Purchasing 15- to 20-foot trees for planting is a good investment and will be a valuable source to help control summer cooling costs.
Install Efficient Window Coverings. The Department of Energy tells us that 70 percent of the sun’s solar energy can be intercepted by mesh window screens or solar screens. These help if your windows are open or closed. Window films that are transparent and metalized sheets can also reflect heat before it gets through the glass if the windows are shut. If you don't have this type of window covering, simply closing your drapes or blinds can also block direct sunlight and some heat.
Use Your Basement. If you have a basement in your home, use it as part of your living space during the summer months. With or without air conditioning, it's the coolest place in your home. In your regular living area, keep windows covered and turn the thermostat up a bit while enjoying the cool basement. If there is a fair amount of humidity in the outside air, keep basement windows closed so warm and moist air won’t find its way in and cause condensation to form on basement walls.
Use a Fan. If a ceiling fan or circular fan is used along with your A/C unit, it may be possible to raise your thermostat up to 4 degrees and feel little or no difference in your personal coolness level. A ceiling fan or circular fan can cool you down and make a room feel more comfortable to the people in it. Ceiling fans work best in rooms that have ceilings that are eight feet high or higher. A ceiling fan should be evaluated to make sure it “fits the room,” and the noise rating and ENERGY STAR label should be considered when selecting a ceiling fan.
Regular Maintenance Pays Off
Your central air conditioning system will function at its optimal level and potentially have an extended life cycle if you follow a few maintenance suggestions, shown below.
Schedule a maintenance check with a trusted HVAC professional at least once per year. This appointment may include a cleaning of your system and will catch any small problems before they cause future damage. Read here on the importance of a yearly service check.
Keep debris and plant overgrowth away from the air conditioning unit. While shade from plants can help the unit's efficiency, it should be kept far enough away so that vines and leaves don't begin to inch their way into the unit. Debris and overgrowth can literally choke the system and cause damage to the equipment.
Listen for odd noises like creaking, rattling or grinding that may signal the need for repairs. Even if your system seems to be running properly and cooling effectively, don't ignore obvious signs like strange noises that could alert you of a potential problem. Be proactive and have the system checked.
Replace older air conditioning units with newer, high-efficiency systems. If you have an older air conditioner, replacing it may be a big step to help control summer cooling costs over the long term.
As summer lingers, your home's comfort will be an important factor in your enjoyment of the season. If you're concerned about controlling cooling costs, then practice these cooling tips and consider regular preventive A/C maintenance. These ideas and additional tips are included in our "25 Ways to Save" e-book. They can help you in your quest to control summer cooling costs for your home.