14 super-easy ways to reduce your AC costs
With spring and summer on the way, temperatures will rise in the US. When they do, higher electric bills follow as Americans attempt to keep their homes cool and seek refuge from the sweltering heat.
- Why US A/C costs are rising
- 14 top solutions to reduce electricity costs
Turning up the air conditioning cooling is one such way to guarantee cool air within the home, yet also ensure increased energy costs.
A U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) publication compared the percentage of US homes that had air conditioning today to that in 1993. In the nineties 68 percent of US homes had air conditioning units installed, yet today there is now 87 percent, the equivalent to 100 million households that currently have AC installed.
Luckily, energy efficiency standards have vastly improved for air conditioners. More modern and larger homes tend not to see an increase in their electricity costs.
However, the expense of cooling a home or business is still a significant electricity expense during the summer season. The EIA estimates that cooling accounts for 15.4% of the annual energy use in all homes across the U.S.A.
Air conditioning costs increasing
Air conditioning is a growing cause of domestic energy use. In the U.S., air conditioning costs households $29 billion per year and accounts for roughly 6 percent of home energy use. Six percent may certainly sound low; however, it’s misleading.
Most energy sources, like lighting, water cooling, and refrigeration, are spread unevenly throughout the day and the year for that matter. Even space heating that accounts for 42% of home energy use is scattered throughout the cold-weather months and often located on a separate heating gas or oil bill.
Air conditioning, however, is highly concentrated on the very hottest days of the year, expressly during the hottest afternoon hours.
Consequently, homeowners and businesses can see their electricity bills rocket in the summer after a period of scorching hot weather.
These spikes in power bills can be especially intense if ratepayers have variable-rate plans – where the electricity price fluctuates throughout the day. When demand is high – at the same time when everyone is using their air conditioning – prices can skyrocket.
Reducing your household’s dependence on air conditioning is a surefire way to reduce carbon emissions that are harmful to the environment.
While saving electricity is always a righteous notion, in the heat of summer this is somewhat poignant. Most energy companies operate their dirtiest fossil fuel plants when demand is at peak – precisely when households and their neighbors are blasting our their air conditioning on full.
There are several straightforward approaches that households can do to tame their electricity bills during the oppressive summer heat and reduce their air conditioning costs.
Most of these solutions are dependent on which air conditioning unit the household has or the type of property too.
Several strategies will generate a noticeable contrast immediately while others will take some more time to build up. Below are the top 14 solutions to both get to grips on your rocketing electricity costs and lower household energy consumption by an impressive 10 to 50%.
Top tips to keep your home cool and your A/C costs in check
1# Give your windows a new lease of life
If your home has aging windows, they probably are not that energy efficient. Households can reduce the costs of cooling their homes by investing in new energy-efficient windows. Some initial investment will be required upfront; however, the savings they will bring will more than make up in the long-term.
Newer windows have an energy-efficient coating that will minimize the amount of infrared and ultraviolet light that passes through the glass and into the home. This coating helps either retain or reflect heat into the house while reducing energy costs and keeping hot air from entering the home, so reducing the burden on using air conditioning.
2# Seal your windows and other air leaks
Similar to the first point, badly sealed windows leak air making the air conditioning unit work that much harder to keep air circulated and fresh within the home. Sealing leaks or crevices prevents the cold air from seeping out of your windows, reducing the need to use the A/C.
Before homeowners begin to caulk and seal all of the leaks and cracks in their home the first step is to locate the openings in the house. Here are a few to begin checking with first:
- plumbing and utility access
- attic entrances
- behind knee walls
- dropped ceilings
- door and window frames
- air ducts
- outlets and switches
- water and furnace flues
3# Open the windows during nighttime
There is an effortless cooling technique – cross ventilation. Similar to using fans, opening a couple of windows in a house or just one room helps circulate fresh air, which, during night brings in the cooler outside air to replace the warmer indoor air.
This is particularly advantageous for those households who reside in the more northern, cooler regions of the USA.
Note – do not leave the AC on at night if you open the windows; you are not boosting your air, merely using the AC to battle the elements. In addition to cooling efficiency, leaving the windows open places stress on the air conditioner, causing it to mimic the outside air temperature or attempt to make it cooler/warmer (if you have a smart AC).
4# Could you turn off your AC when you don’t need it?
Yes, this sounds blatantly obvious, yet you would be surprised about how lackadaisical households become when turning off the home’s air conditioning.
When not using certain rooms of the home, don’t leave the AC switched on. If you leave the house, turn off the air, so it is not working while you are out or at work during the day.
Sadly many homeowners forget, going to work or school or vacationing without turning off the A/C. Better still, get a smart AC controller that has geo-fencing – when you leave your home, the AC will shut down when you are over a certain mile radius away. The same when you return home, once nearby, the AC will turn on ensuring the home is lovely and fresh upon your return.
5# Install a programmable thermostat with an app
Many people don’t bother to adjust their thermostat in hot weather. And yet, only a couple of degrees can make a vast difference. For every degree a thermostat is set above 75⁰F could save 10% to 15% in energy costs.
As mentioned above programmable thermostats can dramatically cut energy usage by adjusting temperatures while you’re away out of the home or even why you are fast asleep.
What’s more, users can program the smart AC controller themselves or even purchase one that readjusts to a home’s temperature preferences. Some leading smart AC controllers are also programmed with an app.
According to the Department of Energy, US households can save 10% annually by adjusting the room temperature by 7 to 10 degrees for eight hours of the day.
App programmable thermostats can automate this process.
6# Use ceiling and portable fans
Ceiling fans circulate fresh air, taking some of the burden off air conditioning units. Using existing ceiling fans (or installing them throughout the home) is a surefire way to increase a home’s energy efficiency.
Ceiling fans may be considered low-tech; however, they work miracles when it comes to keeping rooms cool. A ceiling fan not only reduces a houses air conditioning needs, but it also saves up to 40% on electricity costs.
Portable fans are a suitable option too, and done right, can be strategically positioned around the house or a room in particular.
Fans do not cool the air per se; they make rooms feel fresher and hence cooler because they move the air (and subsequently heat) away from the skin. With fans only using a small fraction of the energy that air conditioning units use, saves so much more in energy costs.
Bonus Tip: If you do get a ceiling fan, ensure that the blades are angled so that the air is pushed down towards the recipients, and not up.
7# Replacing HVAC air filters
Air filters are vital to preserving a well-functioning HVAC unit running smoothly. They prevent dust and other airborne pathogens from blocking vents and promoting healthy air circulation. If the filters are dirty, the HVAC unit will have to work harder to circulate clean and fresh air.
Air filters are a crucial, yet an often overlooked component of an HVAC system. Keeping the home’s air filter in optimal shape, it’s critical to have it checked, serviced and regularly changed.
Homeowners should replace their HVAC air filters every one to three months, maybe more frequently if they have children or pets in the home. Changing the air filters will do the following:
- prevent damage to the HVAC unit
- create, clean and circulate healthy air
- save energy dollars
- protect the environment
A blocked air filter can cause extensive damage to an HVAC system and those units that have their filter’s replaced every three months at least reduce the amount of bad air pumped around the home. Children, senior citizens and those with asthma or suffer from allergies will notice a difference.
8# Avoid cooking in the home
Cooking on a stove or with an oven generates much heat, adding to the strain on the home’s air conditioning unit. Furthermore, kitchen appliances like refrigerators and electronics create additional rises in temperature. Cooking then only exacerbates the situation.
During the winter months, cooking inside is probably the only option. However, for the summer months, why not prepare your meals outside?
The warmer, sunnier weather is fantastic for grilling outside and doing this a few times a week can help keep temperatures from building up in the home.
If cooking outside is not your forte, then try and use kitchen appliances that emit less heat like electric griddles, or even a microwave.
9# Insulate attics and garages
Windows are just one place where the house leaks air. Attics, walls and garages spaces leak air back and forth as well. Using a professional to insulate your home is one of the ideal ways to achieve energy efficiency. If the house is older, this could certainly be worth the investment.
Now, this may sound counter-intuitive, as more insulation surely makes the home warmer, not cooler? Especially for those households who live in the more tropical south. Insulating the walls will retain heat, yes, and this is not the point of this tip. As heat from the sun enters the attics and windows, it heats the adjacent areas.
The purpose of this tip is to insulate the areas like the attic or garages from heat flow moving into the rooms below and next to it.
Adding insulation reduces or slows this heat flow, as heat moves by radiation, conduction, and convection.
10# Use blinds, curtains, and shades
Air conditioning works harder in rooms that really catch the sun, and begin to heat up like a greenhouse. A solution to block out the sun is to install some blinds, particularly those that are light colored. Even light-colored curtains or awnings will help block the sun.
Clever use of curtains, blinds, awnings and other window shade treatments can help keep the house cool and thus your AC bills in check. The Department of Energy says that smart management of window coverings alone can decrease heat gain by up to 77 percent!
11# Make your roof a light color
The same with blinds and curtains, color matters when reflecting heat. The same with a households roof color.
Similar to how a black car or black shirt will get hot when outside in the sun, a dark roof will bake the rooms beneath. Dark roofs can cause temperatures to rise to 150°F or more in the summer sun.
Darker colored roofs consume the suns rays, and with it, heat. While lighter colored roofs reflect the sun’s rays and heat, meaning that a house with a light-colored roof is naturally cooler than a house with a dark-colored roof. So, less energy and money are spent on air conditioning to cool it.
A roof then that is painted a light color or made of reflective material, under the same sunny conditions the roof help the home stay more than 50°F cooler, giving homeowners relief from both the heat and high energy bills.
12# Install solar panels
Solar panels, typically, are installed on home roofs and utilize the sun’s energy to power a home, and in turn significantly reduce overall energy costs, not only the cost of running an air conditioning unit. The investment you will need to pay for installing these panels depends on whether they are leased or bought as new.
Solar panels are one way that homeowners can remove the risk of becoming the next casualty of high electricity bills.
Solar energy is a powerful way to produce renewable energy not only to power your air conditioner, but it can also provide energy for the remainder of your household appliances.
Furthermore, solar panel units will generate enough energy to save you thousands in electricity costs for well over 25 years. Although a long-term investment, indeed one that is well worth it.
13# Find lower ground
Due to the natural occurrence of heat rising, a straightforward way to avoid an overheated home is to avoid the upper floors within homes as much as you can.
If you can do this, then you can leave the air conditioning off for the upper floors and only cool the lower levels for most of the day, if you need the AC on at all.
Leaving the temperature higher on a home’s upper floors for more extended periods of the day will relieve the pressure on the AC and simultaneously save electricity costs. At night, if required, you can then switch on the air conditioning.
14# Plant more trees
For an environmental way of saving not only energy but increasing natural scenic greenery, homeowners could plant more shrubs and trees, particularly on the south and west sides of the home. Planting bushes and other foliage based greenery in front of windows, not only blocks the sunlight from entering the house in the first place but also absorbs the heat and provide cooler indoor temperatures.
Plants and trees that are placed in front of outside air conditioning units also keep them shaded and protected from overheating, reducing the likelihood they will need servicing and increasing their efficiency by up to 10%.
When the mercury rises, take proactive measures to slash your energy bills and your AC costs. Whether you rent or own, doing some of these 14 tips ensure households won’t experience a whopping energy burn this summer. For a faster, lower-cost solution – why not begin with an app-based geofencing smart AC controller?