Simple Strategies For Staying Cool And Saving Money This Summer
Summertime brings with it some great perks – afternoons at the pool, family cookouts, and evenings on the porch among them. But for many, it can also bring some exorbitantly high energy bills. In recent years, energy expenses for the average U.S. household have hovered around the $2,000 mark annually. That’s a big portion of many family budgets, and it doesn’t necessarily have to be that high. Fortunately, you can help bring down that average with a balanced approach to energy use in your home.
Central air is a marvelous invention, but many people aren’t well-informed on how to use it correctly. Most modern homes have programmable thermostats that give their air conditioners guidelines on when and how to run. When it first starts getting warm enough to use air conditioning, use your programmable thermostat (or have one installed) to find the high end of the indoor temperature you’re comfortable with. This will be the base level that your air conditioner works at all summer.
In this case, consistency is key to energy (and cash) savings. Many try letting their house heat up, turning the air conditioner on its highest settings only sporadically. This is in fact much less efficient than keeping it running at the same level over time. Another common myth is that, when the house is uncomfortably hot, setting the thermostat well under the temperature you want the house to be will make it cool down faster. But the rate at which your air conditioner works is actually constant no matter how low the thermostat goes.
In addition to a well-programmed thermostat, keeping your AC properly maintained goes a long way in terms of energy efficiency. You wouldn’t drive a car 20,000 miles without changing the oil, and it makes just as little sense to go for several years without having your home’s HVAC system checked on. An improperly maintained central air conditioning unit can increase costs by 20% or more, which is much more expensive over the long haul than calling up an HVAC technician for regular maintenance.
If your air conditioner is beginning to lose steam and your house just won’t cool down, it might be time to invest in a new system. An important figure to check when looking for a new air conditioner is the “SEER” number, which indicates the efficiency of the unit. Though air conditioners with high SEER numbers are typically more expensive, they pay great dividends every summer by cooling your home at a lower cost.
In addition to a properly controlled and maintained air conditioner, changing small things around the house can prevent uncomfortable afternoons and sleepless nights that result from the summer sun. Light-blocking window blinds, well-ventilated and insulated attics, and a liberal use of fans help to keep your home cooler than it might otherwise be. Really, it’s a matter of staying on top of the little things that makes the difference between a comfortable home and a heat-trapping steam room.