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How to Save on Air Conditioning

Here are some ways to help you stay cool this summer without having to max out your air conditioning bill.

  • Choose your A/C locations with care. Installing an air conditioner in a shady spot could increase its efficiency up to 10 percent. Energy Star-qualified models use about 25 percent less power than ones made before late 2000.
  • Start at Medium.Don't set the air conditioner to a maximum cool setting immediately when you turn it on. It won't cool the room any faster, but it sure will use more energy. On humid days, set the fan speed on low to remove more moisture from the air.
  • Postpone your use of appliances until early morning or late evening. Your air conditioner won't have to work as hard to offset the heat produced by the appliances. Besides, running appliances during off-peak hours reduces the stress on the power grid, helping to prevent brownouts, and you can also pay less for the electricity if your utility charges less per kilowatt-hour during nonpeak hours.
  • Maintain your air conditioner. Dirty, clogged filters increase an air conditioner's energy use.Clean the filter on window and central air conditioners monthly or as needed by vacuuming and washing. Some filters need to be replaced. Clear debris from outside louvers and coils.Outside, keep plants and shrubs at least 2 feet from the condenser.
  • Dim the lights.Common incandescent lightbulbs emit a great deal of heat. Turn off unnecessary lights. Also consider replacing your incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescent lights, or CFLs. They use about 75 percent less energy and give off 75 percent less heat to produce the same amount of light as incandescent bulbs. Switching from a 100-watt incandescent bulb to a 25-watt CFL can save you as much energy a year as switching from a standard air-conditioner to an Energy Star model.
  • Make some shade. Awnings, shades, and blinds keep sunlight from entering your home, especially useful in west-facing windows in the afternoon. Install them on windows, skylights, and doors that get a lot of sun.
  • "Summerize" your home. Adding insulation and sealing air leaks help keep you comfortable year-round and can also lower your energy bills by hundreds of dollars a year. Start by insulating the attic or adding to the insulation already there, then insulate ducts in unconditioned space.
  • Use fans. When the outside air is cooler than that inside your home,fans can come in handy. Vent fans draw in the cool air and exhaust the hot air. Window fans are inexpensive to operate and easy to install. To boost the chimney effect, in which warm air rises and vents naturally, place one blowing in on the ground floor, and another one blowing out on the floor above.
  • To keep your air conditioner from fighting heat from the attic, you can install an attic fan controlled by a thermostat so it will turn on automatically when the attic temperature reaches a certain point.
  • A whole-house fan can do the work of an air conditioner using much less electricity. By turning on in the evening and off in the early morning the fan pushes out the hot attic air and draws in cool outside air from open windows throughout the house, lowering the temperature inside the house by 3º to 6º F at night.