23 Clever Ways to Bring Down Your A/C Bill This Summer
Keep your bank account balance high and your A/C bill low.
While the summer season finally allows for outdoor barbecues, trips to the beach, and that sun dress you've been dying to wear, the scorching sun can sometimes be unbearable. In reality, many summer days are spent indoors with the air conditioning cranked at full blast. And unfortunately, that can prove to be expensive… very expensive. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, air conditioners use about six percent of all the electricity produced in the United States, at an annual cost of about $29 billion to homeowners (yes, billion).
However, there is a way to beat the heat without draining your savings account. To combat high A/C bills, we've uncovered clever ways to reserve energy and boost efficiency in your home. At long last, you can enjoy a cool retreat from the balmy heat without doing too much financial damage.
Clean or replace your filters.
You can save quite a bit of money on your A/C bill by simply taking the time to clean out your air conditioning units. According to Northeastern energy company Great Eastern Energy, clearing a clogged A/C filter can save anywhere from 5 to 15 percent of your energy use.
And if your A/C unit is more than 10 years old, it might benefit your bank account in the long run to just get a new, more efficient one (like this relatively inexpensive one from Wayfair).
Paint your roof a lighter color.
Similar to the way that a black T-shirt absorbs an uncomfortable amount of sunlight, a dark roof takes in every inch of the sun's rays during the warmest months of the year. What this means is that, if your roof is painted a dark color, those rooms directly underneath it will heat up fast and require even more energy to cool. So do yourself a favor and apply a few coats of white paint to your roof to save money on your energy bills.
Limit the use of your stovetop.
The heat coming from your stovetop when it's in use doesn't exactly do your air conditioning bill any favors. In fact, Great Eastern Energy designates the stovetop as the warmest (and worst) appliance when it comes to keeping your house cool for the summer. Therefore, in order to avoid having to crank up the air conditioning, the energy company suggests taking your meal preparations outside to the grill or even doing them in the microwave. Basically, the less you use your stovetop, the better.
Do the activities that require the most energy after dark.
Do your wallet a favor this summer by soaking in the tub only after the sun has set. When the outside temperature is particularly scorching, doing activities that generate a lot of heat—like cooking, washing and drying clothes, and showering—only make your home hotter. By simply avoiding these activities during the day, you'll save money on electricity and prevent your air conditioning system from having to work overtime, according to the National Education Association.
Place your thermostat in a cooler area of your home.
Before you install your next thermostat, ensure that you're doing so in the best possible place: far away from any spaces that are filled with warm sunlight. According to CNET, thermostats located near a particularly sunny window kick into action far more often than they should, thus raising the A/C bill unnecessarily. You should similarly steer clear of sticking your thermostat next to anything else that generates heat, like televisions, lamps, and other appliances.
Install blinds or blackout curtains.
Not only will an excessive amount of sunlight raise the temperature in your home and force your air conditioning unit to go into overdrive, but it will also heat up any and all surfaces that it hits. So, to create a cool environment in your home without cranking the air conditioning, simply invest in quality blinds or blackout curtains; they will effectively rid your space of any unwanted sunlight.
Line your home with more trees.
Planting trees and shrubbery around the perimeter of your home won't just make it look more aesthetically pleasing. This gardening technique can also block sunlight from coming in through your windows, ultimately saving you a pretty penny on your air conditioning costs.
Specifically, Great Eastern Energy says that planting light-blocking trees and shrubbery around the south and west sides of your house will block most of the sunlight coming in. Plus, these plants will "absorb the heat and help provide cool from their transpiration," which is water loss from leaves.
Insulate your walls and your attic.
If lowering your A/C bill is your goal, Great Eastern Energy suggests double-checking every corner of your home for adequate insulation. Should you find that your attic and walls are not properly insulated, correcting this problem will ensure that the cold air blowing throughout your home in the summer does not escape via nooks and crannies.
Install a radiant barrier in your attic.
Your attic should already have a radiant barrier like the one pictured here. However, if yours is missing this essential component, then it's high time that you get it installed. Why? According to Austin, Texas-based expert Michael Bluejay—who specializes in saving electricity—a radiant barrier arms your home against heating and cooling leakage.
By installing this layer across the underside of your roof, you can make sure that no cool air is escaping through the cracks and thusly, reduce your energy use by 8 to 12 percent, according to the Florida Solar Energy Center.
Turn off electronics when you're not using them.
Your home is filled with electronics that generate an exorbitant amount of heat. Therefore, to cut down on your A/C costs, Air Conditioning, Heating & Refrigeration News suggests periodically turning off your electronics—especially when you're not at home.
Similarly, turning off the lights in your home when you aren't using them can save on energy costs.
Switch to fluorescent or LED lights.
While normal lights give off 10 percent light and 90 percent heat, compact fluorescent bulbs and LED bulbs do the opposite, giving off about 90 percent light and 10 percent heat. Installing these bright and brilliant bulbs around your house could be the key to saving money and helping the environment. Win-win!
Install energy-efficient windows.
Though there are some substantial upfront costs involved here, installing energy-efficient windows can save you quite a bit of money on your A/C bill in the long run. The U.S. Department of Energy suggests looking for windows adorned with the "Energy Star" seal of approval and checking each window's rating on the National Fenestration Rating Council's website before making a purchase.
Those living in warmer climates should especially make sure that their new windows come with a sun-blocking film, which protects furniture from fading by rejecting solar energy so it doesn't enter your home. Similarly, opt for windows with a low solar heat gain coefficient (SHGC), which keeps hot external temperatures outside and maintains more comfortable temperatures inside.
Install reflective film on your windows.
Can't afford entirely new windows? No problem! Installing reflective film instead will reflect and absorb anywhere from 40 to 60 percent of the heat that tries to enter your home without eliminating any light from your space, says Bluejay. These reflective panels cost anywhere between $3 and $8 per square foot, but the cost is well worth the savings you'll see on your A/C bill.
Raise the temperature whenever you leave the house.
As the National Resource Defense Council (NRDC) explains, there's no need to keep your home excessively cool while you're gone. Simply turning up the temperature by a few degrees when you're going out will maintain the cool environment of your home while saving you money on your next A/C bill.
Get a programmable thermostat.
Better yet, you could save yourself time and money by swapping out your old-fashioned thermostat for a programmable one from a company like Ecobee, Lyric, Nest, or Lux. With these high-tech devices, you can actually program the thermostat to raise the temperature in your home while you're at work or away for the weekend. It's as easy as that!
Use your bathroom exhaust fans while taking showers.
To keep your bathroom as cool as possible during the summer months, Metro Heating & Cooling in the Minneapolis, Minnesota area suggests running your exhaust fans whenever you take a shower. These fans are the perfect way to cycle the hot air and humidity out of the bathroom, as they work to continually supply a flow of cooler air without forcing you to crank up your A/C.
Open your windows at night.
During the balmy summer months, the nighttime always brings cooler and more manageable temperatures. So, instead of relying on your A/C at night, Great Eastern Energy suggests taking advantage of the lower temperatures by opening the windows and allowing nature to cool your space. This cross ventilation will help circulate the air inside of your home without costing you anything.
Keep your ceiling fans on.
According to the NRDC, the use of just one ceiling fan can make a room feel up to 10 degrees cooler while only using 10 percent of the energy of a central air conditioner.
To make the most of your ceiling fans, check to make sure that they are moving counterclockwise so that they are pulling up the cool air from the ground and blowing it back on to you rather than simply circulating warm air. And, just as you would with an air conditioner, make sure that you're turning off the ceiling fan after leaving the room to conserve energy costs.
Strategically place fans toward windows.
To keep your home cool without the use of an A/C unit, electrical engineering consultant Olin Lathrop suggests putting a fan in a window and pointing it outwards—with the face of the fan against the window—in order to blow hot air out of the room. If you employ this practice in every room, you can expel the hot air from your house through the windows.
Purchase the appropriate air conditioners for every room.
To ensure that you're adequately cooling every room in your home while simultaneously saving as much as you can on A/C costs, home appliance company Sylvane suggests using different cooling devices depending on each room's square footage and energy use. Choose less intensive window or through-wall A/C units in smaller rooms, while furnishing bigger areas (like the living room and the kitchen) with more powerful ductless mini-split systems or portable air conditioners that rest on the ground.
Make sure that nothing is blocking the flow of air from your A/C.
According to Bluejay, an A/C won't run as efficiently if it's being blocked in some way. Therefore, when you remove unwanted debris or tall grass that could be obstructing the flow of air surrounding your unit, you are ensuring that the performance of your A/C isn't compromised and therefore costing you more.
Keep your HVAC fan on "auto."
According to Indiana heating and cooling company Homesense, keeping your HVAC fan on "auto" rather than regulating the fan speed yourself can actually save you money on your A/C bill. Why? When it's set to auto, your fan is programmed to run at the lowest speed and for the least amount of time possible. Plus, Homesense promises that keeping your HVAC fan on "auto" will also make your furnace filter last longer, as there will be no strain on it from constant use.
Check on the status of your central cooling system once a year.
Before the summer fully sets in, schedule a home audit with your utility provider or local contractor. But if that's too pricey, you can actually do one on your own. To make sure that your home is free of small spaces where your air conditioning could escape, CNET suggests running your hands over the cracks of each window and door as you walk the perimeter of your home. Apply caulk where there is a crack in the window and use insulation around any doors that need it. And for more ways to combat the balmy summer weather, check out these 20 Surprising Things That Can Keep You Cooler All Summer.
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