How to Save on Cooling Costs
Beating the Summer Heat on the Cheap
August 10, 2015 by Jake Butler
As the temperature soars in the dog days of summer, so too does the cost of keeping your home cool. Luckily, there are lots of ways to keep your AC unit humming along efficiently, so you can keep your cooling costs down without all the sweat. Whether it’s DIY ingenuity, easy routine maintenance, or simple lifestyle changes, these tips can help you beat the summer heat on the cheap.
Give Your AC Unit Some TLC
Whether you have a window unit or central air, it’s important to keep up with regular maintenance so it runs efficiently. That starts with the air filter. It works by filtering dust and other particles out of the air as it’s taken in. If you don’t clean or replace your air filter, that dust builds up over time and reduces airflow. In the end, that hurts you two ways – first, it diminishes efficiency. The unit has to use more energy to take in the air it needs. Second, it can actually force more allergens and dust into your home.
Next, check outside near the unit itself. Make sure the area around it is clear and clean off any debris. Much like the air filter, this is about airflow – making sure the unit can take in air efficiently so it doesn’t have to use too much energy.
It’s also a good idea to take the case off and get inside the guts of the machine to clean it out. AC units are designed to maintain a certain amount of refrigerant and airflow across the coils. At the very least you want to clean off the coils and make sure the inner workings of the unit are free of dust and debris, and nothing is leaking. If you notice any problems and think the whole system isn’t working as well as it should, it may be time to schedule a service call.
Check Your Ducts
Did you know that even a small leak in your duct system can cause a dip in efficiency by up to 40%? Locating leaks so you can seal them off can save you untold amounts of money on your energy bill.
If the ductwork passes outside anywhere, or through an attic, crawlspace, or even the basement, it’s important to make sure it’s well insulated to maximize efficiency.
You can buy the tools you need at most hardware stores, but it may be worth the investment to have a professional come in and inspect your ducts for leaks and inefficient areas. They have more sophisticated equipment that can help you locate and address problem areas.
Trees and shrubs aren’t just for decoration. Most of the heat accumulated inside a house comes from direct sunlight shining on the roof and into windows. A good long-term solution is to plant leafy trees and bushes around your house. The more shade casted, the better.
According to the U.S. Department of Energy, simply casting shade on your AC unit could boost efficiency by 10% – just make sure it’s not blocking airflow.
Block off Windows
As mentioned above, a lot of the heat trapped in a house comes in through the windows. Simply blocking them off with heavy drapes can go a long way. There are also lots of products on the market designed to reduce the sun’s impact on the temperature of your house, which you can use seasonally. Solar screens or other mesh coverings can intercept up to 70% of solar energy before it gets into your home. Window films are another option. They’re transparent, but have metallic particles that reflect solar energy before it passes through the windows.
When All Else Fails…
Use common sense! Every degree on the thermostat matters. If you can turn it up to 78 when you’re home instead of 76, those two degrees may not seem like much, but over time they really do add up to significant savings. So too will shutting it off when you’re not home. It’s a common myth that turning it off during the day while you’re not home could actually use more energy once you turn it back on and it has to cool the whole house, but that idea has no basis in reality. Shutting it off can also extend the shelf life of your unit and save you even more money in the long run.
Lastly, get creative! Fans and cold showers can go a long way. Heat rises too, so if you’re lucky enough to have a furnished basement, it’s almost always going to be cooler down there. I hope these tips can help you beat the heat this summer and keep your cooling bills low for years to come!