Air conditioning is a modern luxury many people can’t afford to go without, but as you watch your energy bills climb each summer, you may wonder if you can afford it at all. Luckily, you don’t need to choose between spending lots of money to keep your house cool and going without AC completely. There are simple steps you can take to improve your air conditioner’s efficiency and save money.
1. Upgrade Your Air Conditioning Unit
Modern air conditioning units are between 30%, and 50% more efficient than those made 30 or 40 years ago. If you live in an older home and haven’t updated the AC system since the house was built, you’re spending much more on your air conditioning bills than you need to be. A less efficient air conditioner has to work harder to cool down your home, not only costing you more money but likely not getting your home or business to the correct temperature.
To improve your comfort and your monthly budget, replace your current system with a unit that has a Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER) of over 14.5, the minimum for a unit to receive an Energy Star Rating. Although the initial cost of installation may be expensive, you’ll earn money back from the monthly energy bill savings. And you won’t have to feel guilty about keeping your home as cool as you want.
2. Perform Basic Maintenance
No matter how efficient your unit is, you need to keep it in good shape in order to reap the benefits. A dirty air conditioner must work harder to cool your home, costing you money, and will break down much more quickly.
First, check your filters once a month. As the air conditioning runs, dirt and dust collect on the filter, making it harder for the air to pass through. Each month, wipe the filter down to dislodge the collected debris. Every three months, replace the filter completely, making sure only to use the best quality filters.
Not only do they make your AC more efficient, but they make your air cleaner as well. If you have an outdoor condenser unit, keep it clear of leaves and other debris. You will also need to clean off the fans and the coils. You can either do it yourself by shutting off the power and wiping down the unit, or you can call in a professional. You should have an HVAC expert come once a year anyway to check the equipment and fix any developing issues.
3. Set Your Thermostat Appropriately
Running your air conditioning constantly will only wear out the unit and cost you more money. Be smart about how you set your thermostat. Turn it off during the day when no one is home unless you have plants or pets that will suffer in the heat.
At night, when the air outside is cooler, raise the temperature a few degrees from where it was during the day. If your thermostat gives two options for the “fan” setting, “on” and “auto,” keep it on auto. The thermostat works by cooling the air according to the temperature settings and moving it through the house based on the fan setting.
When the fan is on auto, both the fan and cooling mechanism turn off when your house reaches the desired temperature. If you leave the fan on, it simply moves warm air around the house, wasting energy. You might also consider getting a programmable thermostat. If you don’t want to come home from work to a boiling hot house, but you don’t want to leave the AC running, set your programmable thermostat to turn on the AC about half an hour before you come home every day. You can also set it to turn on in the early morning, so you don’t wake up feeling hot and sticky.
4. Limit Additional Heat Sources
The cooler your house is initially, the less your air conditioner will have to work to keep you comfortable. You can try using appliances like your oven and dryer less since they produce so much heat. Cook outside on the grill, or try some recipes that don’t require cooking, likes salads or smoothies. Close your curtains during the day to limit the amount of sunlight heating up your home.
For a more long-term solution, plant trees around your home or business. They will shade your windows from the sun and keep your outdoor condenser unit cool. Protecting the components of your air conditioning system, including the condenser and the thermostat, from excessive heat will prevent them from working harder than they need to and wearing out faster.
If you notice that your energy bills have been rising and your air conditioning system is struggling to keep your house cool, have some HVAC professionals take a look. They can make necessary repairs, advise you on maintenance tips, and let you know whether a new HVAC system may be your best bet.