Air conditioning is cool (pun totally intended) but it takes a lot of energy to run, and that energy isn’t cheap. Do you open up your bills from the electric company with dread every summer? We have a few tips on ways to save some money on your electric bill during the summer. Some are obvious, but you might not be doing them anyways, some you could tackle in a weekend, some might take a little more effort and time but will pay off big time in the long run.
Stop air conditioning the whole neighborhood
Dad was right, but even when you aren’t holding the door open you might be letting the cool air out of your house. If your home isn’t newly built, chances are your cool air is escaping through single paned windows, worn door and window seals, a poorly insulated attic and other sneaky cracks.
The easiest way to find out everything you can do to keep your cold air from escaping is to sign up for a home energy audit with your utility provider or a local contractor. A certified home energy rater or auditor will check your home for leaks and recommend the best way to make your home more energy efficient.
Don’t want to spring for an audit? Do a miniaudit yourself. Stand outside your home and run your hand along windows and doors. Can you feel the cold air escaping? If you do, caulk around leaky windows and add insulation around doors. Depending on your DIY credentials, consider adding insulation to your attic, apply window films to block out the sun and weather stripping around your windows to keep the cool air where it belongs.
Upgrade your thermostat
If you haven’t upgraded to a smart thermostat — such as Lyric, Lux or Nest — it’s time to make a change. Smart thermostats can regulate heating and cooling when you’re not home to save money. Plus, you can adjust the settings remotely using an app on your phone. Some even work with Amazon Alexa, Samsung SmartThings, Apple HomeKit,
Wink, Google Home and other smart home platforms.
Thermostat placement can play a big part in how well your air conditioner works. If you put it on a wall right next to a hot window, for instance, your air conditioner will kick on much more often than it needs to because it will think the room is hotter than it actually is. Here’s how to.
Don’t be afraid to throw some shade
A window letting in the hot sun won’t just heat up your thermostat, it’ll heat you up too. During the warmest part of the day, close your window blinds and curtains and keep out the sun. Curtains and blinds can also help insulate your windows, which stops the cold air from escaping. Planting trees on the west and northwest side of your house to block afternoon sun. Shade your air conditioning unit (with trees or shade cloth) to help your unit run more efficiently.
Sometimes you don’t need to amp up the thermostat to feel cooler. According to the National Resource Defense Council (NRDC), using a ceiling fan can make a room feel 10 degrees cooler and uses 10 percent of the energy of a central air conditioner. We aren’t suggesting that a fan is an adequate replacement for air conditioning during a heatwave, but fans can act as a booster for the days when you want to crank up the ac.
Use it only when you need it
Many people think that leaving the air conditioner at the same temperature when you leave the house saves money because the air conditioner won’t need to work as hard to recool the home. This isn’t the case. NRDC senior energy policy advocate Lauren Urbanek says that the most inexpensive way to use your air conditioner is to turn the thermostat up when you leave the house.
Air conditioning systems operate most efficiently at full speed during longer periods of time. So kicking it on a lower temperature when you get home will save you more money than the AC cycling on and off while you’re away.
A programmable thermostat (see the list of great ones above) can make it super easy to keep your AC at the right temperature. You can program the unit to work at higher temperatures while you’re at work and cool down right before you get home. If you are super techy, you can get a smart thermostat that you can control from your handy dandy smart phone.
Figure out your “boiling point”
Everyone has a different room temperature that is comfortable for them. (Shout out to all the women with the “office sweater” on the back of their chair all summer long.) It might take some experimenting, but finding the point that is right at your comfort level will help to keep your air conditioning costs down. Always set your thermostat to the highest temperature you can stand to save the most money. Even a small change in the temperature can save you big bucks.
You can save 10 percent a year on your cooling bills by setting your thermostat just 10 to 15 degrees higher for eight hours each day, according to the Nebraska Energy Office. The US Department of Energy recommends aiming for an indoor temperature of 78 degrees F when you’re at home.
Solar and AC seem to be a match made in heaven. When the sun is beating down on your house and you want to crank up the air conditioner the sun is also beating down on those beautiful solar panels, powering your dreams of coolness. Read about the other benefits of solar panels here.