Just when you are able to start shutting off that furnace, it seems as if it warms up enough to start having your air conditioning cost you money. In the Midwest, unseasonably warm weather has had people using their air conditioning already. And in many areas, electric rates are going up. Can you save money on air conditioning?
You can. You simply have to be smart about it. While there are frugal people out there that believe air conditioning is purely a luxury that isn't necessary, I disagree. In many parts of the country air conditioning isn't just necessary, it is vital. Small children and the elderly have a hard time cooling off when they get too hot. Heat can be just as deadly as freezing cold, and it can often kill much faster.
So if air conditioning is a necessity for you, go ahead and turn it on. There are other places you can skimp. There are also some steps you can take to cut your bill.
First, when you are buying a window air conditioner, consider the size of the room you are putting it in. You don't have to buy the biggest air conditioner they sell, if the room isn't that big. Having too small or too big a unit causes the unit to work harder than it has to and will cost you more in the long run. Look for units that are energy efficient (a rating of 11 or higher) and good brands — they will last you longer.
If you need to replace your central air conditioning unit, make sure that you look for a SEER (seasonal energy efficiency ratio) of 13 or better. A less efficient system will cost you more to run. High efficiency appliances do cost you more, but in the long run, it is worth the reduction in electricity bills.
Take care of your unit. Have you ever tried to breathe through a straw for an extended period of time. You know how much that takes. That is what an air conditioner goes through when its filter is clogged up. Replace or clean the filter monthly during the summer and have your central air conditioning serviced at the end of each winter. If you have a window unit, make sure you follow the manufacturer's instructions for winterizing the unit. You may need to cover it or remove it during the cold months.
Your air conditioning is one of the biggest energy monsters in your home. If you have an old air conditioner, it may be worth it to have it replaced with a newer, more efficient system. The cost should pay you back in a few years if you are replacing a unit over 10 years old.
Take the time to install a programmable thermostat so that you can set the temperature to adjust on its own. Have the thermostat at 78 degrees when you are home and 85 degrees when you will be gone for several hours.
Think about the placement of your air conditioner. It won't have to work as hard if it is located in a shady spot with plenty of room to vent heat. Don't plant shrubs or put up fencing too closely, you could hinder its performance.
Did you know that a little gardening can save you up to 30% on your cooling costs? Plant shady trees and shrubs around your house, especially on the west and south sides. This will help reduce the direct sun that warms up your home. You can also close the drapes on the sunny side of the house to block the sun.
If you have large windows on the sunniest side of your home, consider installing awnings for shade. You can also paint your house a lighter color that will reflect the sun's heat, instead of absorbing it.
Leaks can suck the warmth and the cool from your home. Seal off the places were utilities come into your home. Stop any potential drafts under doors and around windows with weatherstripping. Fill the gaps around your chimney. Consider replacing your windows with new, energy efficient windows.
Make sure that your attic is properly ventilated. Thirty percent of the heat in your house is absorbed through the roof. An attic fan can reduce your cooling costs and get the air in your home moving around.
Ceiling fans may not be a designer's dream, but they can make your home cooler. Using a ceiling fan can allow you to set your thermostat 5 degrees higher, which reduces your cooling costs. Running the fan doesn't lower the temperature, the moving air lowers your perception of what the temperature really is.
You can also save on your air conditioning by turning things off. Lights create heat, so turn them off when they aren't in use. Your computer creates heat, so don't leave it running. Use a crockpot or microwave to cook dinner so that you don't heat up the kitchen with your stove and oven.
There are many ways to stay cool during the summer. If you stay home all day, consider taking a day trip to the mall or to the library to reduce the need for cooling. Do all housework early in the morning or late in the evening when it is cooler out. Drink plenty of water and stay hydrated. And stay cool.