Clever Ways to Save on Air Conditioning Costs
Beat the Heat Without Breaking the Bank: Clever Ways to Save on Air Conditioning Costs
The dog days of summer are upon us. As temperatures rise, so too does your reliance on air conditioning. Running the AC nonstop can chill you out, but it comes at a steep price. Skyrocketing energy costs this year mean your cooling bills might make you sweat more than the sweltering weather.
With a bit of clever thinking and conscientious effort, you can still stay comfortable when it’s hot without getting burned by expensive electric bills. This comprehensive guide covers both DIY tweaks and usage strategies that will help slash your air conditioning expenditures.
You’ll learn ways to improve home insulation, better circulate interior airflows, and modify behaviors for AC savings. With these tips, you can keep the thermostat low without draining your bank account. Let’s review insightful solutions to run your air conditioner less and cut your power consumption, so you can beat the heat this summer without breaking the bank.
Audit Insulation Levels
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure when it comes to high AC bills. Optimizing your home’s insulation and stopping air leaks makes cooling your house inherently more efficient. Your first move is to assess the current insulation situation with an energy audit.
Having a professional conduct tests to inspect the insulation levels throughout your home can pinpoint problem areas. They can quantify exactly how much conditioned air might be escaping and provide recommendations for driving down energy waste.
Some key locations to focus on during the audit include:
- Attic – Having adequate, high-quality insulation in the attic is essential for preventing cooled air from seeping out through the roof. Most heat transfer occurs through the top of a house. An R-30 rating or higher is ideal in temperate climates.
- Exterior walls – Even if your attic has great insulation, gaps in wall insulation allow precious cool air to be lost sideways through the building envelope. Dense packing walls with cellulose or foam insulation improves efficiency.
- Ducts – Surprisingly, up to 20% of cooled air can be lost through leaky ductwork running through unconditioned spaces like attics or crawlspaces. Ensuring ducts are well-sealed can lead to huge energy savings.
- Windows – Air leaks easily around old, loose fitting windows allowing cooled interior air to escape outside. Replacing badly sealing windows with new energy efficient models reduces wasted cooling.
- Floors above crawlspaces – Insulating floors between living spaces and unconditioned crawlspaces below helps prevent cooled air from being sucked downward.
Once you know where insulation could be improved, you can budget and schedule enhancements that will maximize your AC’s future performance.
Strategically Landscape for Shade
Something as simple as a tree can have a noticeable impact on your home’s internal temperatures. The right landscaping and foliage placement creates protective shade that naturally helps reduce cooling demands.
Pay attention to how sunlight hits your property throughout the day. Planting deciduous trees on the south and west sides of your home will provide welcome shade from the intense afternoon sun. Evergreen varieties are great for blocking the low eastern and western sunlight year round.
Just be sure not to plant trees too close to the house. You want shade to reach the walls but avoid trapping humidity near exterior surfaces. Trim back encroaching branches annually to allow breezes to flow.
Also use small shrubs and bushes around the perimeter to obstruct sunlight from directly hitting windows and walls. A thoughtful landscape design can make your house cooler before you even turn on the AC.
Manage the Thermostat Wisely
Your thermostat ultimately controls the level of cooling provided by your AC system. Making smart adjustments to temperatures and using programmable features are easy ways to conserve energy.
The simplest approach is bumping up the thermostat by several degrees when possible. Set it to 78 or 79 degrees F when you are home and awake. Then allow warmer temperatures in the 80-83 degree F range when sleeping or away at work.
You can gradually acclimate to higher temps to avoid discomfort. Every degree higher means your system runs less, providing exponential savings on electricity.
Installing a smart thermostat takes convenience a step further. With internet connected control via your smartphone, you can easily tweak temperatures whether home or away. Program a schedule that reflects when you need more or less cooling.
Smart sensors also detect occupancy, so unoccupied rooms aren’t needlessly cooled. Take advantage of features like geofencing that automatically adjust when you leave or return home. The more closely you can tailor AC runtime to real usage patterns, the lower your costs will be.
Circulate Air with Ceiling Fans
Ceiling fans are a simple way to amplify your home’s natural airflow. The breeze generated by overhead fans has a wind chill effect that makes warmer temperatures feel cooler. Air movement across your skin enhances evaporation of sweat, helping moderate body temperature.
Run your ceiling fans on high when you first enter a room before flipping on the AC. The motion generated by the fan blades can allow you to nudge your thermostat up a few degrees higher while maintaining comfort. When used with air conditioning, set the speed to low so the breeze spreads the cool air more evenly throughout the room.
To reap the full benefits, make sure fans are positioned correctly. They should hang at least 7 feet above the floor with blades between 18 to 24 inches from the ceiling. Keep furniture far away from areas right below, so air can circulate unimpeded. Replace any wobbly or noisy fans that disrupt airflow patterns.
Properly using ceiling fans as part of your temperature control regimen enables you to minimize air conditioner runtime and reduce energy bills substantially.
Watch the Humidity Levels
Most people focus exclusively on temperature when judging comfort, but humidity plays an equally important role. Moist, muggy air prevents sweat from evaporating quickly, making your body feel hotter than the measured thermometer reading.
Monitoring indoor relative humidity levels and keeping them in the ideal 40-50% range actually allows you to nudge your thermostat a few degrees higher without discomfort. This directly lowers AC run times and power consumption.
Using a standalone dehumidifier in damp basements and other muggy areas of the home can work wonders. Newer Energy Star rated dehumidifiers remove moisture without consuming too much electricity themselves. Place units in large rooms keeping interior doors open for air exchange.
Alternatively, many modern AC systems have built-in dehumidification capabilities. Enabling the dehumidify function helps strip moisture properly from the cooled air. Using this mode allows you to maximize energy savings by letting those higher indoor temperatures persist.
Improve Air Flow Distribution
For peak efficiency, your central air system needs to maintain smooth, balanced airflow to deliver conditioned air throughout your home. Creating a more uniform air distribution pattern prevents hot and cold zones which waste energy.
Here are some DIY ways to improve airflow:
- Close vents and doors in unused rooms so cooling is focused only where needed.
- Straighten out compressed or bent ductwork causing turbulence.
- Insulate accessible supply ducts running through hot unconditioned spaces like attics.
- Remove furniture blocking vents or returns. Leave space for air to circulate freely.
- Keep interior doors open to prevent pockets of trapped hot air in certain rooms.
- Change filters monthly so air flows easily through the return without obstruction.
Taking these steps to maintain streamlined, optimized airflow means your AC doesn’t have to work as hard delivering comfort. Targeted, draft-free cooling uses less power across the entire system.
Tune Up Your AC Equipment
Like any machine, air conditioners need periodic maintenance to ensure peak operation. Tasks like cleaning coils, checking refrigerant charge, and replacing filters keep things running smoothly.
Here are some DIY maintenance tips:
- Hose off debris from the outdoor condenser coils to maintain proper airflow.
- Change disposable filters every 1-3 months to prevent strain on the blower. Electrostatic pleated filters last longer.
- Lubricate the condenser fan motor with spindle oil once a year.
- Clear vegetation or clutter away from the outdoor unit. Allow ample space for ventilation.
Beyond self-service, have a licensed HVAC technician perform an annual maintenance visit before each cooling season. They can perform deeper system cleaning, calibrate components, check refrigerant levels, test for leaks, and generally tune things up. This prevents avoidable inefficiencies.
Proper routine care keeps your AC operating at maximum capacity. You avoid the energy waste of an undertuned system struggling to maintain comfortable temperatures.
Eliminate Unnecessary Heat Sources
From incandescent bulbs to simmering stoves, heat emitting devices in your home force the AC to work harder. Trimming back internal heat sources means air conditioning runtime decreases along with electricity usage.
Some prime ways to reduce heat generation include:
- Cook outdoors on the grill to avoid heating up the kitchen.
- Run dishwashers, washers, dryers, and ovens during cooler nighttime hours.
- Microwave instead of oven bake when possible to contain heat.
- Switch any remaining incandescent bulbs to LEDs which produce less heat.
- Plug electronics like TVs and computers into smart power strips to cut phantom draw when off.
- Exercise outdoors or in naturally cool basement spaces instead of heat-generating workouts inside.
- Close window blinds and drapes on sun-exposed windows to block solar heat gain.
Every bit of heat you can keep out of your interior living spaces reduces the burden on your air conditioner. Take advantage of cooler times of day or shadier outdoor areas whenever you can.
Leverage Attic Ventilation
Getting rid of built-up hot air in your attic during summer is key to preventing heat transfer down into living spaces. Proper attic ventilation coupled with ample insulation helps moderate this major heat source.
Installing thermostat-controlled, power-ventilated exhaust fans is one of the most effective ways to flush out hot attic air. Opt for solar-powered models to avoid increasing your electric costs.
Maximize functionality by ensuring cool air can easily enter the attic through ridge, gable and soffit intake vents. Keep the attic floor well-sealed to prevent cooled house air from escaping into this hot zone.
Even just keeping attic doors weatherstripped and adding vents high up on gable ends encourages beneficial passive airflow. Removing extreme attic heat keeps the temperature differential between your ceiling and attic lower. This protects interior comfort while allowing you to relax the thermostat.
Plug Air Leaks
Invisible gaps around windows, doors, pipes, wires, and other exterior breaches allow cooled air to sneak out and hot air to seep inward. Vigilantly sealing these leaks forces cooled air to stay inside your home longer.
Work your way methodically around the house interior and exterior applying caulk, spray foam, weatherstripping materials, or removable gasket seals as needed. Focus on areas where different building materials meet, like:
- Foundations and exterior walls
- Windows, doors, pet doors
- Electrical, cable, phone line penetrations
- Attic hatches
- Dryer vents, bathroom fans
- Pipes, wires entering the home
Don’t forget to seal air leaks on exterior walls inside closets, basements, and attics for comprehensive protection. Stopping uncontrolled air leakage can reduce AC costs by up to 30% while making your home more comfortable.
Open Windows in Milder Temps
Taking advantage of cooler temperatures in the evening or early morning allows you to avoid running the AC constantly. Turn off the air conditioner and open windows overnight and early morning to exchange heat for fresh outdoor air.
Place high-velocity box fans in open windows to enhance airflow and create a cross breeze. Letting in free cooling when overcast or after sunset reduces the burden on your AC system.
Spend time outdoors when weather permits to further minimize interior cooling needs. Read a book in the shade or have a picnic rather than staying cooped up inside.Listen to your body and avoid cranking up the AC if wearing a sweater and getting a breeze solves the chill. Being flexible and grabbing natural cooling opportunities offers big savings.
Install Smart Vents
Smart air vents take conditioning efficiency to the next level using automated dampers to control airflow. Networked systems connect to a central control panel or app on your phone allowing you to open or close specific vents as needed.
Closing vents in unused rooms channels cooling precisely where you need it. When bedrooms are unoccupied during the day, shut them off to avoid wasting energy. You can optimize conditioning room-by-room based on changing needs.
Smart vent systems also prevent overcooling by shutting off overly air conditioned spaces. This balanced delivery lets you set the thermostat a little higher without losing comfort. Targeted cooling powered by smart vents offers an advanced way to maximize efficiency throughout your home.
Utilize Whole House Fans
Whole house fans are a viable eco-friendly alternative to air conditioning in some homes. These large fans mount in the attic and pull cooler air in through open windows, flushing warm interior air up and out attic vents.
They work best overnight when outdoor temps drop below indoor readings. This creates beneficial positive pressure that pushes hot air out through the attic. Meanwhile, comfortable cooler air enters windows on the lower floors.
Attic-mounted units sized to provide around 14 air changes per hour work well. Add an insulated cover to prevent cooled house air from escaping on hot days. With selective use, whole house fans paired with window AC units can provide ample cooling with far lower energy expenditure.
Staying cool in summer no longer requires maxing out your energy consumption. Utilizing the tips and solutions covered, you can keep comfortable when it’s hot while simultaneously slashing air conditioning costs. A few DIY tweaks and intelligent usage habits make all the difference.
Concentrate first on optimizing your home’s insulation, sealing leaks, and enhancing natural airflow. Then take advantage of shady trees, ceiling fans, and keeping humidity in check. Follow common sense advice like cooking outdoors, eliminating unnecessary heat sources, and opening windows when outdoor conditions permit free cooling.
Finally, take advantage of smart technology like programmable thermostats, vent damper controls, and dehumidifiers to target conditioning only where and when needed. Apply this guidance and you’ll breeze through summer without breaking a sweat over high utility bills. Stay cool out there!