Staying cool and comfortable in your home or workplace always feels great in the summer. But paying for it typically doesn’t feel as great, especially as it gets warmer outside and cooling costs increase.
A frequently overlooked truth is that your air conditioner is just one piece of the greater puzzle of lowering cooling costs in spring and summer. In other words, even the best A/C system in the world can only do so much on its own to keep you cool in the most budget-friendly and energy-efficient way.
In this post, we explore 10 key steps you can take to help your air conditioner do its best work while consistently decreasing your utility bills.
1. Use Blinds or Drapes to Block Out Heat
Just having direct sunlight streaming through an unprotected window can make it feel 10 to 20 degrees warmer inside your space and send you running to adjust the thermostat accordingly.
In addition to traditional window coverings such as draperies and mini-blinds, you may want to consider adding window films or solar screens that are designed precisely to block light and repel heat.
Solar screens in particular are pretty amazing—some can block up to 76 percent of incoming heat!
2. Use Ceiling Fans Correctly to Feel Cooler
Most modern ceiling fans have a little switch on the central column that moves air directionally according to the seasons.
Switch it one way and the blades draw warmer air up into the center part of the room to keep you warm in winter.
Switch it the other way and the blades push cooler air downward to keep you cool in summer.
3. Re-Seal Doors and Windows
Over time, your window and door seals will experience wear and tear thanks to the elements and old age.
Taking the time to re-seal doors and windows, renew caulking around pipes and exhaust vents, and replenish insulation in walls, ceilings and floors can keep the cool in and the heat out.
4. Repair and Insulate Leaking Ductwork
Ductwork is so easily overlooked, and yet it has a big job to do! In the warmer months, your ducts carry cooled air from your air conditioner to you.
Over time, your ducts can start to sag and wear. Leaks may develop. Dust and debris can accumulate inside, especially during winter, when shivering insects or small animals may make their way inside to find shelter.
Repairing and insulating your ductwork can retain up to 30 percent of your cooled air, which otherwise escapes through cracks and leaks before it ever enters your home or workplace.
Having your air ducts professionally cleaned can also boost your air conditioner’s efficiency, further reducing your utility bills.
5. Give Your Condenser Some Shade
If your condenser unit (the outside component of most A/C units) sits in the direct path of sunlight, you are looking at a 3 percent increase in power costs during the warm season.
Also make sure to clean your condenser coils and the unit itself. Clip away low-hanging foliage, sweep away accumulated debris and ensure the unit itself and the hoses and power connections are free and clear.
6. Use a Programmable Thermostat
A programmable thermostat is another largely unsung hero in the battle to control home utility costs. There is nothing pricier than cooling an empty home or workplace!
The Department of Energy offers lots of ideas for trimming power costs by 10 percent or more using a programmable thermostat. If your air conditioner doesn’t have one of these nifty gizmos, ask your HVAC technician about a third-party thermostat; there are many available today.
7. Choose a Light Exterior Paint Color
If your home is about ready for a new coat of paint, consider going lighter. Light-colored paint does a better job of reflecting heat and keeping your home cool.
8. Re-Roof with Metal or White Roofing
The same principle supports re-roofing with a light-coloured metal or other material when that time comes. Both are better at repelling heat than the standard-issue dark roof.
9. Install an Attic Radiant Barrier and Insulation
As its name suggests, an attic radiant barrier prevents heat from passing through to your space below. Installing a radiant barrier can trim up to 10 percent off your cooling costs.
10. Schedule Your Air Conditioner Inspection and Maintenance Service
Just changing (or cleaning and replacing) your air filter can go a long way toward lowering your monthly power bills by up to 15 percent all year long.
But there is a lot more that you can do to help your air conditioner (and furnace) do their best work at optimal efficiency.
Scheduling your annual inspection and HVAC maintenance service is the cheapest, fastest and easiest way to do all of these things all at once. The safety inspection is vital to rule out home fire risk due to malfunctioning wiring, electrical connections or accumulated debris.
The most economical approach to preventative maintenance is to enroll in one of our money- and time-saving HVAC protection plans.
Your HVAC technician will thoroughly clean and inspect your unit, adding refrigerant fluid or lubrication where needed, checking belts and hoses for cracks or leaks, cleaning evaporator and condenser coils, cleaning and adjusting the blower, testing the thermostat for accuracy and alerting you to minor repairs due to wear and tear.
This preventative inspection and maintenance service typically takes less than two hours and provides you with energy savings and peace of mind for a full year. Of course, it also prevents a larger, expensive issue from surprising you down the road!