When summer days get hotter, air conditioning can be so awesome! It feels so good to escape the heat and cool down in the comfort of your home. At least it feels good and cool until the first skyrocketing energy bill comes in. Then things really heat up! How can you keep your house cool but also save money on the cost to cool it? We’ve checked with the energy experts and HVAC technicians, and found seven tips to help you stay cool and save money on air conditioning.
1. Set your thermostat to a reasonably good temperature. Before setting your thermostat to 72 degrees because that’s room temperature, keep in mind that we tend to dress in lighter clothes during the summer. Try slowly raising the temperature in the range of 73 to 79 degrees to see what’s comfortable for your house. The U.S. Department of Energy specifies 78 degrees as the ideal compromise—cool enough and saving you money. Every degree you go up from 72 saves you three to five percent on your air conditioning energy costs.
2. Raise the temperature whenever you leave home. Whenever nobody will be home for two or more hours, you can save energy by raising the temperature by seven to ten degrees. The Department of Energy says doing this consistently will save you as much as 10 percent on cooling costs.
3. Save money at night. When you sleep, your core body temperature lowers. So you may be able to raise the temperature a bit at night, especially if you use lighter sleepwear and lighter bed coverings.
4. Switch to a smart thermostat. You can program a smart thermostat to raise the temperature ten degrees during the day when everyone is at work and then lower it 30 minutes before the first person returns home. Some smart thermostats have even more advanced features to help you truly optimize the temperature setting to save you the most money.
5. Seal up the leaks. The older your home, the more likely cold air is seeping outside. Install new weatherstripping and caulk around doors and windows. We recommend getting a home energy audit from your utility provider to find all these leaks and to find the best things you can do to make your home more energy efficient.
6. Replace older air conditioning units with energy-efficient models. Just like newer furnaces, today’s air conditioners really do work much more efficiently than older ones. If you fear you’re paying too much to keep your house cool, it would be worth asking an HVAC salesperson about your options.
7. Call an HVAC technician to tune-up your air conditioning unit. Regular inspection and maintenance is vital to keeping your air conditioner working at its best. If you suspect that it’s not cooling properly, a technician will be able to determine whether there’s a problem other than it’s a really hot summer.
Follow these tips and you’ll save money while keep your house reasonably cool this summer.
Your home’s HVAC (Heating, Ventilation and Air Condition) system runs 'round the clock, 24/7, all year long. You can’t expect it to last forever, but you can expect your furnace to last for about several years—depending on the model, you may get 15-20 years out of your furnace and 10-15 years out of your air conditioner. It's a big investment to replace your furnace or air conditioner, so we have five tips for you to try to extend the life of your HVAC system.
1. Schedule two HVAC tune-ups per year
Contact a home services company to give your furnace a tune-up in the fall and your air conditioner a tune-up in the spring. This preventative maintenance usually includes a good inspection, cleaning, lubrication and any necessary adjustments.
2. Change the air filter regularly
Disposable fiberglass filters should be replaced every 30 days, but check your filter and furnace manual to see how often you should be replacing the filter. A dirty filer will make your HVAC system work harder to circulate air and that can cause extra wear on the system.
3. Clean your ducts
Be sure to keep the return air vents clean and prevent the build-up of dust and debris. You might also want to have your ducts professionally cleaned so that your system is delivering the cleanest air possible.
4. Give the HVAC system a break sometimes
Does your HVAC system really need to be running almost 24/7? Can you give it a break when you’re on vacation? On a cool evening could you open the windows and give the a/c the night off? You’ll be saving energy and giving the system a break.
5. Upgrade your insulation
The better your home is insulated, the less your HVAC system will need to run to maintain the temperature. The first place to check for sufficient insulation is your attic.
When to Replace Your HVAC System
Even if you follow these tips and take good care of your HVAC system, eventually it will need to be replaced, but when? If you’re approaching the projected end of life for the unit, you can’t go wrong replacing it because you will be saving money with the new, more energy efficient replacement. But if you want to prolong the system as long as possible, contract with a reliable home services company for your annual tune-ups and then ask the HVAC tech for their input on when to replace. Be honest with them about the maintenance you’ve carried out on the unit—even if that means confessing that sometimes you didn’t replace the air filter for a season or two. Hopefully you can get to know the techs from the home services company and get to where you can trust their input on when to replace your furnace or air conditioner.
Take good care of your HVAC system and it may well last longer than the average lifespan, but also know when to replace it before it becomes unreliable or so inefficient that it’s costly to keep it running.
Is your central air conditioning failing to battle the heat and keep you cool inside? If you turn down the thermostat to 75 degrees, is the air conditioner able to cool down to that temperature or does it work all day slowly getting there? We have three tips to cooler central air conditioning in your home, and two of them are do-it-yourself.
1. Call in an HVAC service tech once a year
If you want your air conditioner to keep your house cool for many summers to come, the best thing you can do is have an HVAC service tech test the unit every spring, clean and adjust it. They are best equipped to go over everything that could be preventing your conditioning from blowing the coolest air possible. To save money, sign up for an annual HVAC maintenance contract to service both your air conditioner and your furnace. This is the gold standard, but if you want to do it yourself there are two things you can do.
2. Clean return air vents and replace filters
HVAC techs constantly recommend changing your air filters regularly and they’re not just making this up to sell more filters. Replace an air filter and you can see for yourself how dirty it is from trapping dust and debris. The more clogged the filter, the less air flow and the less cool your air conditioning will be. During months of high usage, replace filters monthly. Be sure you know where your return air filters are located—sometimes there’s only one alongside the furnace, but there can also be a filter at each return air vent. While you’re checking those return air vents, be sure to vacuum them thoroughly to remove all dust.
3. Clean the condenser coils on the outdoor air conditioner
Go outside to your air conditioning unit and make sure it is free of obstructions such as grass, weeds, vines and globs of leaves and debris. Though a professional HVAC service tech can do this better, you can clean the condenser coils. First turn off the power to the unit. Next, get yourself a bottle of dish detergent, ideally one that is about 80 to 90% empty. Fill it with water to make a soapy solution. Then squirt this soapy solution on the outside front of the air conditioner. You should be squirting through some kind of vents or caging to the condenser coils. On most units these are visible on three sides. Get them soapy and after a few minutes of soaking time, use a garden hose to spray the soap away. You’ll see dirty water and debris flow away from the unit. Give it an hour to dry up before restoring the power.