Looking for some great ways you can save money on your home’s air conditioning bill this summer? Let’s face it, the spike in the electric bill can be pretty shocking after you’ve ridden out the winter without needing AC. These tips will help you curb your air conditioning expenses this summer, and could save you $100 or more on your monthly electric bill!
- Change out that old dirty air filter
The primary way cold air is moved from your A/C’s condenser into your home is through the furnace’s blower motor. The blower motor pulls air through the cold-air returns in your home, which goes through the filter, before colder air from the condenser is blown back through the vents throughout your house. When the air filter is clogged, the blower motor, and the condenser unit outside, which both run on electricity, have to work for longer periods of time to maintain the temperature in your home set at the thermostat. Not only does this use more electricity, but not regularly changing your filter also adds to debris build up in the blower motor itself, eventually requiring an HVAC technician to clean or replace it.
Industry experts recommend changing the air filter once a month. A good reminder to change your air conditioning filter is when you pay your electric bill for the month. Not only will your home have less dust, and you’ll avoid more costly a/c repairs, but changing your filter will bring a smile to your face as you write a smaller check for your electricity.
- Tune up your A/C system
It’s usually a good idea to get your air conditioning system cleaned and tuned up before the hot summer months. Not only can the condenser unit outside become clogged from outside dust and debris, but a good air conditioning tune up service will also check Freon levels, BTUs being pulled at the condenser unit, as well as cleaning and servicing the blower motor inside. All of these variables add up to increase the amount of electric draw your air conditioning system uses. When the condenser unit is clogged, or its’ Freon is low, it has to work double time to keep your home cool. The same holds true with your blower motor. In Springtime many air conditioning companies offer tune-up specials ranging from $69 to $129, and they’re worth every penny. In fact, the company offering them usually takes a loss on the service, because they want to be top-of-mind when you need a repair, or will often offer a free estimate for a new condenser unit, which can actually save you a substantial amount of money on your monthly electric bill. More on that later.
- Balance the air flow in your home
Have rooms in your home you rarely use? Ever notice that your basement is freezing in the summer, while the upstairs is considerably warmer? The solution to this is what AC professionals call load balancing. Some air conditioning companies offer furnace and blower units that can do this with great precision, and usually with a pretty good price tag, but you can actually do a lot to balance the airflow in your home by simply closing a few vents here and there.
Simply put, if you have rooms in your house you are rarely using, close the vents in them and keep the doors shut. You’re spending money to cool those rooms. The same holds true in basements. Most basements have vents that move cold air into the basement, which is usually totally unnecessary. Cold air sinks to the lowest part of the home anyway, so shutting the vents in your basement will force the air to balance in the hotter parts of your home, reducing the length of time your system needs to run to keep your house cool. For added measure, you can use those old plastic shopping bags you have lying around to make an ever better seal on the vents your close. A little ingenuity and duct tape can go a long way here.
- Check your ducting for rips or holes
Central air conditioning systems use tin ducting either in the attic, basement, crawl space, or all of them, to move air around your home. These ducts are not seamless, and usually have many joints that hold them together. Often times the ductwork is also insulated. And what do you suppose holds all these ducts together? If you guessed duct tape, the same stuff you can pick up at the hardware store, you’re right! Simply put, the ducting in your home can separate, or even get condensation in it, creating rust, and eventually holes. When this happens, cold air is being vented into areas of your home you don’t live in, instead of the parts you want to keep cool. Routinely checking for leaks or holes in your ductwork is a good way to make sure you’re not needlessly wasting money cooling your attic or crawl space.
- Pre-cool your home at night or early in the morning
This may seem a little counterintuitive, but it actually works really well. Your air conditioning system works at peak efficiency and is actually designed to maintain your home at a certain temperature. Many times we’ll hear the advice of not cooling your home when everyone’s at school or work, but when everyone returns and you fire up the air conditioner, your condenser unit actually draws tremendous BTUs in order to cool your home in the hottest part of the day, something it is not designed to do. While electronic thermostats that do this automatically can be handy, the far better approach is to cool your home to a lower temperature, say 60 degrees, at night when the condenser doesn’t have to work that hard, and then set the thermostat to 75 degrees when you leave for work. This way, all morning long and sometimes well into the afternoon, your AC isn’t running and isn’t drawing electricity. When the temperature in the home finally reaches 75, your AC will kick on, and maintain that temperature throughout the afternoon and evening, which is how it’s designed to operate and use the least amount of electricity.
- Close the blinds in your home and definitely don’t leave the windows open
Quite a bit of heat enters your home through glass windows, especially when they’re open! By closing all of your windows when you’re not home, and leaving the blinds closed, the heat that would otherwise come through the window is reflected back outside and your air conditioner doesn’t have to work as hard. Even if you’re home, it’s a good idea to keep the blinds closed on the side of your home that gets the most amount of heat. All things being equal, the hottest part of the day is 2 in the afternoon to 7 at night, and the sun comes in the same windows every day during that time. Closing blinds at least on the sunny side of your home can actually save you a lot of money every month.
- Use cheap fans to move air around in your home
Remember earlier when we talked about cold air naturally sinking into the basement? An inexpensive fan from Home Depot or your local hardware store can do a great job of re-circulating that air to the upper levels of your home, requiring less draw from your furnace blower motor, and your AC’s condenser unit. Using fans in your home also has the effect of keeping you cooler, the same way a cool breeze does in the evenings outside. Usually what that means is you can keep your thermostat at a higher level, drawing less electricity, and keeping your monthly bill lower.
- Replace that old air conditioning condenser with a high efficiency model
So far, we’ve talked about several inexpensive options to lower your monthly electric bill during AC season, but it’s worth mentioning a more substantial investment you can make in your home that can have considerable payoffs in the long run when it comes to your electric consumption.
Air conditioning systems have come a long way in the last 10 years. If your AC system is a decade old or more, chances are you are spending a lot more money to cool your home every month than you need to. Older model air conditioning condensers usually have a SEER rating of 6-8. Essentially, SEER indicates the relative amount of energy needed to cool your home. As a general rule of thumb, for every 2 points you go up in SEER rating, the efficiency of the A/C condenser increases about 10-12%. So in layman terms, if you currently have an 8 SEER air conditioning condenser, and you upgrade to a 14 SEER AC, your new unit will cost around 30-40% less to operate each month. Upgrading to a very high efficiency 18 or 20 SEER model can reduce operating costs even further, and it’s not uncommon to see the electric costs of these high efficiency A/C units be half or less than older models. Most if not all HVAC companies will offer a free replacement estimate, and it’s definitely worth the time to have two or three of them out to your home to get an