8 Surprising Ways to Lower Air Conditioning Costs Right Now
Use these tips to keep your home comfortably cool this summer without a sky-high energy bill.
On hot summer days, air-conditioning can help you stay cool and comfortable, but it often comes at a steep price. Running your home's air-conditioner on full blast for long periods of time can quickly cause your energy bill to skyrocket. Plus, cooling costs might be especially high this year as we experience particularly hot temperatures across the country. And with many of us working remotely, we're home during the peak mid-day heat more than ever. To beat the heat and keep your budget in check this summer, use these tips to lower cooling costs.
1. Bump up the temperature.
Setting your thermostat a few degrees higher means your air-conditioner doesn't have to work as hard to maintain your desired temperature. As a general rule, a smaller difference between the indoor and outdoor temperatures will provide more cost-effective cooling, explains Rob Munin, general manager of thermostats and sensors at Johnson Controls. "A good rule of thumb is that you shouldn't need a sweater inside when it's hot outside," he says. Experiment with your thermostat to find the highest possible temperature that still allows you to remain comfortable. If you typically keep your home at 72 degrees, for example, try bumping the temperature up to 75 for a few hours and see how you feel. According to Energy.gov, dialing the temperature back 7-10 degrees Fahrenheit from its typical setting for 8 hours a day can cut your energy costs by 10% annually.
2. Install a smart thermostat.
To maximize your air-conditioner's efficiency, consider installing a smart thermostat that lets your cooling system do the thinking for you. This programmable device connects to your home's Wi-Fi network and can be controlled via a mobile app or through voice assistant devices such as Amazon Alexa or Google Home. A smart thermostat allows you to schedule temperature changes based on the time of day and adjust the thermostat even when you're away from home. Some devices also include geofencing technology, which can detect when you're not at home and adjust the thermostat accordingly, helping you save up to 30% more energy, Munin says.
3. Limit heat-producing appliances during the day.
Many kitchen and laundry appliances produce heat that can cause your air-conditioner to kick in more frequently throughout the day. To save energy, use your grill and microwave instead of the cooktop and oven as much as possible during the summer. Plan your schedule so you can run the dryer, dishwasher, and oven in the early morning or evening rather than during the warmest hours of the day. Air-conditioning also lowers humidity as it cools the air, so you shouldn't need to run a separate dehumidifier.
4. Adjust the temperature at night.
It can be difficult to fall asleep when you're uncomfortably warm, so you might prefer to lower your home's temperature at night. And because the temperatures outside usually dip as the sun goes down, setting your thermostat back a couple of degrees at night is generally not a problem, Munin says. To make sure your AC isn't running all night, however, consider programming your thermostat to readjust the temperature after everyone in the household is asleep. "For nighttime temperatures, precool your bedroom before going to sleep, and then program your thermostat at 2-4 degrees higher for while you're sleeping," Munin suggests.
5. Keep windows sealed.
Sealing off your home from the heat outside is key to keeping it cool. Keep windows closed on hot days, and be sure to lock them to create an airtight seal and eliminate cool-air leaks. Opt for light-colored window treatments that reflect the sun's rays, and draw the curtains or blinds to block the light. If outdoor temperatures are cool at night, cross-ventilate rooms by opening windows. Close them again in the morning to seal in the cool air.
6. Take advantage of shade.
Reduce the load on your air-conditioner by shading east-, south-, and west-facing windows. Outside, consider extending roof eaves or add a trellis or awning to shade windows. Add tinted window film ($30, The Home Depot) to lessen the effects of radiant heat and UV light while maintaining views. Planting trees on the south and west sides of your house can also pay off when they're full-grown, as they can block the sun's most intense rays.
7. Insulate your home against air leaks.
To prevent cool air from escaping, make sure your home is properly sealed and insulated. Check for air leaks around windows and doors, and use a caulk gun ($10, The Home Depot) to seal any gaps that could be making your cooling system work overtime. Inspect the attic's insulation and head to your local home improvement store to get more if needed. If you're planning a large-scale addition or a project that requires relocation of exterior walls, apply a high-quality house wrap to the outside of exterior walls before installing siding to help keep your home cool and reduce your energy bills.
8. Keep your AC in good working condition.
Your air-conditioner requires regular maintenance to function at its best. One of the best ways to help your unit run most effectively is to replace the air filter regularly. "In general, air filters should be replaced every two to three months but may require more frequent attention if your air-conditioner is used consistently, in a dusty environment, or if you have pets in the home," Munin says. A yearly maintenance checkup by a professional can also help keep your air-conditioner running smoothly. "Just like an oil change for your car, these tune-ups are essential to help your system run more efficiently and extend its life," Munin says. This process will likely include system tests, a filter check, and a thorough cleaning of the unit inside and out.