17 Free Ways to Save on Your Cooling Bill

by Erik North on April 19, 2012

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OK, I hope I counted that right but it is very late.

We talk here about a lot of different projects that can be done to reduce overall energy use. One common thread with these projects: they cost money, sometimes a lot of money. Spring (and summer) haven’t truly broken in Maine yet but we have had enough very warm days to begin thinking about hot weather and air conditioning. So what are some low (or no) cost ways to reduce your cooling bills?

Reduce the Heat

Your air conditioner is in a constant struggle to bring the temperature in your house down. Every heat source, within and without will work against your A/C. So give it a little help:

- During the summer, try reducing how much direct sun enters the house. Pull the blinds and shades shut to keep out excess heat.

- If you have a window awning, extend it to provide your window a bit of shade.

- Get rid of your old incandescent light bulbs as they burn out. Odd as it may sound, those bulbs are basically little electric heaters. If you’re cooling the house, standard light bulbs work against it.

- If you have any guest rooms or dens that aren’t being used, close off the door and close any cooling vents.

- If you have any low E glazing storm windows, use them. Taking them on and off is a pain but the glazing helps reduce solar heat gain.

- Use the barbeque. I know, weird one. But using the oven inside just provides another heat source for the air conditioner to fight against. Lower electric bill and delicious barbeque? Sounds like a double win.

Fun With Thermostats

Thermostats are often overlooked as sources of energy loss beyond changing them out for programmables or setting them higher than normal. But there are a few pieces of sensible advice homeowners could mind.

- Pick a temperature and leave it there. If you’re one to fiddle around with the thermostat, you really only need to change it twice a day; once before bed and once when you wake up. Steady temperatures inspire system efficiency.

- Setting the thermostat lower will not make the house cool faster. An air conditioner is not like a car, where if you mash on the gas pedal, it will go faster. An A/C unit rated for 7500 BTUs/hour will pull 7500 BTUs out per hour and no more. The likely end result is cooling the room more than necessary or comfortable and losing money.

- Don’t leave warm appliances like older televisions, lights or ovens near the thermostat. This will cause it to incorrectly perceive the room as too warm and keep running the air conditioner.

- Lastly, (and most important), set the thermostat control as high as you can comfortably manage. Every degree higher saves 2% – 5% on your cooling bill.

- And I just thought of one more after writing ‘lastly’ … Make sure your thermostat/ A/C temperature gauge is out of any direct sunlight or behind a door. It should be on a shaded interior wall. Direct sunlight will cause false readings and a continually running air conditioning system.

If Your Have a Fan, Use The Fan

It is very easy, especially if you have a central air conditioning system, to just flip a switch and cool the house. But fans in every form can help cool for much, much less cost than air conditioners.

- If you have a ceiling fan, set it to create a down draft. This will feel cool on the skin, allowing a few degrees higher on the thermostat to feel more comfortable.

- When possible, use a two way window box fan. Blow it out during the day to vent hot interior air and in at night when the outside cools down.

A Few General Cooling Tips

Maintenance like with any machine is important and even better, most often they’re pretty inexpensive.

- Make sure the filters are clean and unobstructed in single room window models. Blocked air filters forces your AC to work harder than it needs to.

- If possible, check to make sure the refrigerant levels are okay. This isn’t always possible since you don’t have HVAC training and can’t crack the AC open. But some air conditioner models have refrigerant monitors.

- Make sure the evaporator/fan louvers are clean and open for an impeded air flow. Same deal as with the air filters.

- If you have a split model (one where the condenser is outside and the evaporator inside), clean the exterior condenser coils. This will help the your AC move the heat out a little easier.

Some audit customers think big insulation projects will make their house dramatically cooler (and they can). But there are some very cheap and possibly free ways to save money on your cooling bill as well.

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