This is a post by my husband Aaron who, thankfully, installed the window air-conditioner unit right next to the bed so it can blow on my pregnant self all night. That thing is such as life-saver this summer!- Anna
As summer rages on and the heat increases we all look for ways to stay cool. Most people, in their time of thermal distress, turn to the air conditioner, one of the more costly, but effective ways to stay cool. Granted, it will always be costly if you chose to use an a/c, but there are ways to keep the cost down. We use pretty much all these tips and they work great.
Lets quickly dispel the biggest myth first. Is it cheaper to run the air conditioner all day or turn in on just when you get home? It works something like this. Heat likes to go where it’s not hot. When you hold your fridge door open too long, what happens? The motor kicks on to keep the fridge and everything inside of it cold. That’s because heat is rushing into the cold cavity of the fridge. Your house works the same way. If you are constantly cooling your house, heat is always looking to get in and the air conditioner has to constantly work to keep that heat out. If you leave the a/c off during the day, the house will heat up and then stop heating because the heat is already where it wants to be. Inside your house. When you get home and turn on your a/c, the air conditioner has less heat to remove, so it uses less energy and less money. Or look at it this way: you can leave the a/c on all day and constantly remove heat or turn it on when you get home and remove it all at once. The most cost-effective (and environmentally friendly) technique is to just turn it on when you’re actually home.
Now that that big ol’ myth is cleared up, lets look at 10 more ways to save money while using a costly air conditioning unit…
1. Raise the temperature a few degrees
Did you know, according to Mr. Electric that “each degree below 78 degrees farenheit will increase energy consumption by 3-4%”? So, set the air conditioner a few degrees warmer and pay less.
2. Use the air conditioner in conjunction with a ceiling fan
This may sound counter-intuitive to run two appliances at once, but ceiling fans are inexpensive to operate, and can help cool your body letting you raise the a/c temperature a few degrees.
A quick note on fans: ceiling fans (and fans in general) don’t actually make the air cooler. Fans work by blowing the hot air surrounding your body away from you. Its like when you blow on a hot spoonful of soup. You don’t have “arctic breath” you are simply blowing the heat off the food, so it gets cooler. That’s essentially what a fan does… it blows the heat your body is generating away from you. Plus, if you are sweating, the fan will cool you by evaporation.
3. Clean the air filter every week
When the filter is clogged, the air conditioner has to work harder. The harder it works, the more money it costs you. It takes me just a few minutes to pop out the filter and clean it.
4. Cool only the rooms you are in.
Why cool the kitchen when you are in the office on the other side of the house?
Quick note: obviously, this isn’t always possible with central air conditioning. Central a/c is expensive and uses a lot of energy mainly because it’s cooling the entire house. Window units, while still expensive are more economical. If you have central air in your house, try shutting the vents in the rooms you are not in so the cool air gets re-routed the rooms you are using.
5. Buy the right size air conditioner for the room
Oversized a/c’s are inefficient and waste money. Sure, they might cool the room down a few minutes faster, but they use more energy. The converse is true too, a smaller air conditioner in a large room will have to constantly work to keep it cool. The proper size one will cool the room down, then it will shut off (if you have that feature activated which we recommend doing). Here is a handy guide on how to select the correct size of air conditioner unit for a room.
6. Use window shades and blinds to block direct sunlight
The cooler you can keep your house, the less heat there is that has to be removed. Our old apartment was west-facing and a corner unit so every afternoon our living room got blasted by the sun. It cooked! We ended up purchasing these white paper accordion shades from the home supply store for just $6 and cut them with scissors to fit the windows (overlapping them in spots to get the right fit). We placed the paper shades behind the standard window blinds in the apartment and that really helped to keep the heat out. They were white, so not only did they help block the heat, they also helped to reflect the light away from our living room.
7. Seal the windows and doors
Cold air that escapes is cold air that has to be replaced, and that means money is sliding on out of your place. Properly sealed doors and windows will help keep the costly generated cold air in. It works just the same in winter time with the heat. Save some bucks by getting a few draft blockers for the bottom of your doors.
8. Keep the back of the air conditioner unit clear and free of debris
In order to get cold air out, you first have to suck in air. If the airflow is restricted, then the unit will have to work hard and that means it will hurt your pocketbook (what is a pocketbook anyway?).
9. Keep the lights turned off
This is a good energy-saving tip any time of the year, but especially in the summer. Touch a lightbulb that has been burning for a while and you’ll see what I mean. It’s hot! Adding extra heat into a room you are trying to cool won’t help you save money so keep the lights off.
10. Keep the oven off
Along the lines of tip #9, reduce heat from cooking by forgoing the oven, and by using the microwave instead or try making meals that don’t require using the oven at all. Salads are a great alternative.
Some more tips for staying cool:
Air conditioning is a luxury that not everybody can afford, and if you can’t that’s okay! You can still beat the heat using some of the tips below.
- A box fan is the cheapest alternative to an a/c unit. It won’t cool you down as much as an air conditioner will, but it will help take the edge off. Put the box fan in the window on a cool summer night and suck in that cool summer air.
- Make sure your place is properly insulated. This will keep you cool in the summer and warm in the winter.
- Plant trees to help shade your house.
- We are lucky enough to live in Colorado which is a very dry environment. It cools down significantly at night even if it’s 100 degrees during the day. If you live in such an environment, open up all the windows at night to allow the cool air to come in than during the day closed all the windows, pull all the shades and try to contain the cool air and block out the sun.
What are your favorite ways to stay cool in the summer? And, have you found any ways to cut a/c costs that haven’t been mentioned above?