The average American spends a lot of time fretting over where their money goes on a monthly basis. Those dollars are allocated to all of the necessities, often with very little left over for what could be deemed expendable income. If you’re like most homeowners, you’re probably always searching for new ways to save a few dollars on your monthly expenses. Turning off the air conditioning can be a tempting option to help cut back on those exorbitant electric bills.
What do you do if you want to have extra money in your bank account but you also don’t want to endure a sweltering afternoon during the summer without your air conditioning?
Fortunately, there are plenty of ways for homeowners to save on their cooling costs without sacrificing too much of their ordinary comfort levels. You can take plenty of steps on your own to accumulate hundreds of dollars in savings this year. Chances are you already have a few ideas of how that money could be better spent moving forward.
Before you begin to embark on a journey that teaches you all of the clever ways you can save on your air conditioning, you should be aware that it does require something on your part. You will likely need to be more attentive to the overall needs of your HVAC system and provide more routine maintenance than you did before.
In fact, you may even have to spend money in order to save money on this monthly expense. Prepare yourself to move outside of your usual comfort zone in order to prime your budget for the warmer months ahead.
Change the settings on your thermostat
This is perhaps one of the most controversial topics when it comes to saving on your monthly cooling costs. People can be very particular when it comes to their comfort level in their home, holding fast to their beliefs about the exact temperature their home should be throughout the day and the night.
The reality is that many of us could probably live with our home just a few degrees warmer during the spring and summer months. We aren’t likely to break out into a sweat or to feel faint from the sheer wave of heat that will overcome us if the thermostat is three degrees higher.
Unfortunately, we often cause our units to work drastic amounts of overtime to maintain some unrealistic temperatures within our home. How often do you set your thermostat to 68 degrees when the temperatures outside are spiking over 100 degrees? You may feel a heat stroke coming on after just twenty minutes in the sunshine, but we expect our cooling units to offer us the chilled air of a crisp fall day.
An unrealistic temperature on the thermostat can spell out big costs when it comes to your monthly electric bill.
In order to keep up with the number you programmed, the air conditioner has to run almost constantly to keep cool air moving throughout the home. It requires more electricity and it even means more wear and tear on the unit that can result in a shorter lifespan.
What’s the solution to this dilemma?
Many experts recommend selecting a much higher temperature for the interior of your home, suggesting that it should come somewhere near 78 degrees Fahrenheit when you’re actually present in the home. Depending on where your preferences were before, this can mean a drastic reduction in the amount of work that your air conditioner is required to perform on a daily basis.
If you know that you’re heading out for a while, whether it’s for a day at the office or just to run errands, you should consider setting it a little higher than that. Boost the temperature up by a few degrees to keep your air conditioner from running as frequently when you’re not even home to enjoy the cooler air. The same applies to when you go to bed at night and won’t be consciously aware of the temperature within the home.
Make the most of your technology by purchasing a smart thermostat that can link directly to your phone. You can now program it to change the temperatures of your home at certain times of day, such as just before you wake up in the morning or at the time you would usually arrive home from work. You can also make changes manually right from your phone.
A programmable thermostat offers many of the same benefits but without the ability to make modifications on the go. This means that you can come home to a cooler house while still experiencing the benefits of saving on your electric bill.
Does it sound unbearable to have that much heat in your home? Consider placing a few fans around the house to make the most of the cold air when it does kick on. This will help to circulate the air and make the room feel chillier, even though you’re still saving on the costs to cool the home.
Be mindful of your home layout
Have you ever considered that the placement of your furniture could be racking up an extensive electric bill for your family? The positioning of the various items in and around your home can certainly contribute to a higher electric bill if you’re aren’t mindful of how their location affects your air conditioning.
Take a few moments to look around your home and identify where each of your air vents is located. Most homeowners will find that they have a piece of furniture blocking at least one air vent somewhere in their home, whether it’s in a bedroom or a main living area. Does your sofa soak up all of the cold air because it’s directly over top of the vent?
The layout of some homes may make it next to impossible to avoid blocking each of the air vents with your furniture. However, some of these issues could be alleviated with a little bit of careful planning. Could your sofa or mattress be shifted just two inches to the left to give your air vent some room to breathe?
The cool air pumped into the home through the air vents can circulate more freely and do its job more effectively when it isn’t being absorbed by inanimate objects.
If there’s no way to prevent your furniture from covering the vents, do what you can to minimize the impact that this has on your electric bill. An air deflector is one of the most cost-effective ways to allow you to keep your furniture where it’s at while maximizing the work your air conditioner is performing.
These covers latch onto the air vents on your floor and push the air sideways instead of straight up. The extra push can help air to make it out from underneath bulky furniture items and into the rest of your home. From there, you can help it to continue circulating with a ceiling fan or a few well-placed mobile fans throughout the room.
You may also want to consider where you have heat-generating items placed in relationship to your thermostat. Is your television just inches away from the thermostat? How about your stove or other kitchen appliances?
This could be contributing to the amount that your air conditioner is running during the day. As your appliances give off more heat, the thermostat is reading that change in the air and communicating that you need extra air conditioning.
While you may need some extra cool air to make up for the heat these items produce, keeping appliances close to the thermostat can be deceptive. It may trick the thermostat into reading a temperature much warmer than what your home actually is.
Do your best to either rearrange your furniture or hire a professional who can assist you with moving your thermostat to a better position within your home. Look for an ideal location where it isn’t likely to be influenced by heat-producing items or areas of the house.
Of course, your interior layout isn’t the only thing that you need to be mindful of when it comes to considering the cost of your cooling bill. The way that you landscape and maintain your yard can have a significant impact on your monthly cooling bill as well.
Many homes accumulate excess heat throughout the day as a result of the sun beating down on their windows, doors, and exterior walls. This extra heat results in the air conditioner working hard to cool your entire building structure and keep humidity levels low within the home. Homeowners should consider what a few minor modifications to their yard could mean for their monthly cooling costs.
Shade can offer a welcome reprieve from the solar heat that comes during the spring and summer months. Have you considered what planting a tree or a large shrub would be able to offer you?
Both of these items are natural ways to block the sunlight from hitting the home and generating the heat that it’s currently bringing. Without the sun shining on the windows or the roof, the shrubbery and trees can keep the heat a little lower within your home. Some experts estimate that adding a few plants in your garden, provided they’re the right type and size, could save you up to ten percent on your cooling costs.
Another way to prevent your home from absorbing heat directly from the sun is to install a film over your windows to deflect heat away from your home. This can be done on your own with the proper tools for a homeowner who possesses a small degree of handiness. Even a light shade of window tint or film can be helpful at keeping your home slightly cooler in the summer months.
As an added bonus, some window films will also help to keep your home warmer in the winter. Be sure to investigate which name brands and types promise to promote the overall efficiency of your HVAC system year-round.
If you don’t want to spring for installing window tint or film, you can do something a little less drastic by simply closing the blinds. Closing the blinds offers a two-fold way to save on your cooling costs.
First, the blinds help to deflect the sunlight away from the home in much the same way that the window film or tint will help. Second, a closed set of blinds forms a mild form of insulation that helps to trap cold air inside of your home and keep warm air outside. If you have minor leaks in your windows, this can help to alleviate some of the extra stress that is being caused to your air conditioner as a result.
You should also avoid placing things in your yard that could soak up the heat and transfer it to your home. Try to avoid landscaping features that can collect the heat from the sun and make your entire house feel warmer. These can include concrete, rocks, or any type of asphalt. If you need to have flower beds or gardening areas close to the home, make sure that they are made of other materials or that they are covered by shade.
Items such as these tend to collect and hold onto the heat, making your whole home warmer for most of the day. Your landscaping can play a big role in keeping the heat out of your home, which also serves to reduce the overall cost of cooling the house during the summertime.
Contain the cold air
How many times did your parents ask you if they were cooling the whole neighborhood while you were growing up? Any time you left the front door open just a fraction of a second too long, you were likely met with this familiar quip. Unfortunately, now that you’re a homeowner too, you may be inadvertently cooling your neighborhood and it’s going to cost you.
Both new homes and old homes can spring leaks that allow warm air in and cool air out, making it more difficult for your air conditioner to keep up with the volume of cool air it needs to produce. It’s far more likely for older homes to need more weatherizing than newer ones.
Over time, weatherstripping deteriorates and caulking cracks. It makes sense that you may need to revisit these items as your home ages as part of basic maintenance to protect your biggest financial investment. Of course, taking care of your home can also mean savings on your monthly cooling bill.
Consider the most obvious areas where your home may be letting in heat. These are typically things like the windows and the doors, any place where your home is exposed to the outside world.
Doors can be easy to fix if you notice that there are big gaps around the perimeter. Add a layer of weather stripping to cushion the space between the door frame and the door itself. This spongy material should assist you in keeping out rainwater and unwanted critters as well as holding in the cool air from your home.
The areas around the windows are also relatively simple to fix when they spring a sudden leak of warm air flowing through. Head to the nearest home improvement store and purchase some caulking, a quick and efficient way of filling in the gaps.
The best part about both of these tips is that it doesn’t require the assistance of a professional handyman. Weather stripping and caulking are both very simple tasks that can be accomplished with just a few minutes to spare on the weekend. The technical ability required is minimal and can be learned through watching instructional videos in just a matter of minutes.
A slightly more complicated way to ensure that you aren’t losing precious cool air is to check the air ducts of your home for proper insulation. Particularly examine ducts that run through non-air conditioned portions of your home such as the attic.
Do you find that your air ducts have almost no insulation covering them in these areas?
If there’s no insulation on the ductwork of your home, the cold air being pumped in by your air conditioner is growing steadily warmer as it moves through these ducts. Instead of keeping the chill in the air, it is slowly acclimating to the temperature of the duct. By the time the air reaches your main living spaces, it may be several degrees warmer than it was when it was first forced through.
Is it really worth the monthly expense of cooling your home only to find out that your air conditioner is really offering lukewarm air?
Lack of insulation can be easily corrected on your own or with the assistance of a professional. If you enlist the help of a professional, they may be able to offer more assistance on all of the places where your ductwork is losing the precious air your air conditioner is manufacturing. There may be sneaky leaks where the ductwork is joined together that are also costing you on a monthly basis.
If you can feel these leaks on your own, these can be repaired using the metallic foil tape that is specially designed for this unique purpose. The adhesive is meant to stick even under the extreme temperature fluctuations seen when heating or cooling a home. This is a very inexpensive way of boosting the efficiency of your system on your own, though a professional could be more thorough in identifying problem areas.
Be sure to seal leaks before wrapping the ductwork with insulation. The insulation should be foil side out and joined together using the same metallic foil tape used to patch any leaks. Ensure that it is well taped to the ductwork to hold it in place and seal it along the seam to keep warm air from becoming trapped in the insulation.
Be warned that installing insulation around your ductwork on your own is a time-consuming and labor-intensive endeavor. For the best results, you would be well advised to seek the guidance of a professional HVAC technician to ensure that no damage is done to the ductwork in your attempt to improve the efficiency of your air conditioning unit.
Plan ahead to keep your home cooler
While some of the strategies included on this list are a little out of the box for ways to save on your cooling costs, you can use a common-sense approach to keep heat out of your house on a daily basis. Many of the activities you do on a daily basis are likely to generate a pretty fair amount of heat. Finding alternatives to these options or simply planning ahead can make the interior of your home more comfortable throughout the day.
Turning on the oven or the stovetop during the day obviously releases large amounts of heat into your home. Do you feel like it’s unavoidable to turn on your stove to cook dinner in the evening? It may be time for you to get creative on the things you’ve been serving for supper.
Plan to serve more meals that can be cold such as pasta salads made in advance, green salads, or other refrigerated dishes. If your family is insistent on a hot meal, make good use of popular kitchen appliances that don’t put off as much heat. Experiment with slow cookers and pressure cookers to get the job done with less hands-on time and less heat.
If you know that you need to boil water or brown meat, try to do it the night before in the evening. During the evening, your home is likely to be the coolest and the air conditioner can keep up with the extra dose of heat from the stove.
Of course, the stove isn’t the only appliance that throws off a lot of heat during the day. Your dishwasher and washing machine are also guilty of raising your cooling costs. Don’t forget that running your dryer can make your house feel both hot and humid in the midst of a summer day.
Try to let clothes air dry as much as possible, particularly if you have access to a clothesline. If you live in an area where this isn’t a feasible solution to running your dryer, try to wait until evening or overnight to put a load in to dry. You won’t really notice the extra heat produced while in your unconscious state. In the morning, your clothes will be dry and your house will still be cool.
The hot water heater is guilty of heating up your home during this season also. It may be difficult to avoid using hot water at all throughout the course of the day but consider the areas where you could cut back.
You may be able to run your washing machine on a cold-water setting. Similarly, you may find that a cold shower is rather enjoyable on a sticky summer day.
For those times where you can’t get around using hot water for your daily activities, do your absolute best to minimize the amount of time the hot water heater has to run. Take shorter showers or smaller baths, for example. Wash larger loads of clothes so that you only have to produce enough hot water for one load instead of two.
Another major heat producer is the television and computer screen. We all know that it’s healthy for us to disconnect from our screens from time to time throughout the week. Consider putting a ban on the television and turning off the computer screen for certain hours during the height of the afternoon heat.
Maybe it’s a great time to catch up on your reading or to put together that puzzle that’s been sitting in your closet. You can stimulate your brain, reconnect with your family, or pursue a new hobby that leaves you feeling fulfilled while still reducing your cooling costs.
Keep your air conditioner clean
This step involves the most long-term commitment from homeowners in order for it to make a significant impact on the monthly cooling costs. Not many people would be surprised to learn that a dirty air conditioner, stuffed with debris and dirt, doesn’t function as effectively as a clean one. The issue is that many homeowners don’t take the knowledge from their head and start to put it into practice.
It’s difficult for your unit to keep running efficiently when the vegetation that surrounds it begins to encroach on its territory. Whether you have a large shrub planted next to the unit or the blustery weather has pushed in leaves and pine straw, the unit itself needs to be cleared of all these unnecessary items.
The first step you can take is prevention. What would need to change about the layout of your yard to keep the unit from being exposed to as much debris? Perhaps you need to cut down the tree that hovers right over the unit, constantly dropping in seeds and leaves. Maybe you need to rehome the beloved bush that is growing closer and closer to the unit with each passing year.
Take a good look inside the unit to determine where most of the debris is coming from and then make a plan for how to prevent it moving forward. Most experts and HVAC technicians will recommend keeping a two-foot to four-foot area around the unit clear of all undergrowth, plants, and other objects that could potentially land in the air conditioner itself.
Clearing out the underbrush and debris around the unit not only keeps it running more efficiently, but it also gives your technician space to work on and inspect the unit on a regular basis. Ensure that you’re giving your professional AC repair person plenty of space to work when you’re making these alterations to your garden.
Depending on the severity of the debris, you may be able to clear some of it out on your own. You must be sure to turn the power off before you consider moving any further with actually cleaning out debris from the appliance.
On most models, cleaning out the debris that landed inside of the unit is relatively simple once there is no more power. All you need to do is remove the fan cage, taking care to brush out any debris that collected on it over the last few months. Once it is lifted up, you will have access to the interior.
It won’t take long to lift out the dirt and collection of debris from the interior of the unit. You can either choose to scoop it out by hand or use a shop vacuum to thoroughly clean it out.
When finished, don’t forget to rake all of the yard debris away from the base of the unit. Make sure all pine straw, leaves, seeds, and pods are raked away from the air conditioner with a radius of at least two feet. You want to protect the work that you did to keep the interior of your air conditioner cleaner.
The system will run much smoother if you are taking care to clean the interior access points for your home as well. Air filters are often neglected because so much time can pass in between changing them. Many manufacturers are now claiming that their air filters can last ninety days or more between changes.
Set an alarm on your phone to remind yourself that it’s time to replace the air filters inside of the house. This is a great time to also clean out and scrub the metal grates that cover them. A clean filter allows cool air to circulate more freely in your home and can also help to save a few dollars on your monthly cooling costs.
Bear in mind that while these simple cleaning tips can certainly help to boost the efficiency of your air conditioner, you may still want to consider investing in professional maintenance annually.
Companies like Classic Air Conditioning and Heating offer residential plans for yearly maintenance that can extend the lifespan of your current system and help you to save money on monthly cooling costs. With a plan in place, homeowners can enjoy the benefits of knowing that their machine is running smoothly for the season ahead.
This inspection serves to identify any problem areas early on, noting places that may need attention in the immediate future or further out on the horizon. Their report can give you a glimpse at the potential financial impact that these repairs will have so you can begin thinking through whether or not the unit should be replaced entirely. You may not be quite so blindsided by the need for future repairs when you have this report in hand at the beginning of the season.
Beyond taking a look at the overall functioning of the unit, a professional HVAC technician will also take the time to clean the unit out thoroughly. If you don’t feel handy enough to remove any accumulated debris from inside the air conditioner on your own, they can take care of it for you. An annual cleaning also includes changing the air filter and any other necessary parts advised by the manufacturer of your air conditioner.
Keep in mind that you will still be responsible for changing the air filters throughout the year.
It does require some financial commitment to have an expert examine your air conditioner and clean it out, even if it is just once per year. However, they can help you to protect your overall investment and boost the efficiency of the air conditioner. Both of these worthwhile benefits are typically worth the upfront cost to obtain a contract for a residential service plan.
Consider upgrading your system
It’s a sad but true reality that your air conditioner isn’t going to last forever. The average lifespan of a cooling unit is anywhere from ten to twenty years. Eventually, you will be faced with the decision to continue making repairs to your current system or to invest in a new unit that may be more beneficial for you in the long run.
Much like purchasing a new vehicle, many improvements are often made in the time span between your last purchase and the current one you may be facing. Technology becomes significantly more efficient as the years pass by. This one fact can indicate huge savings on your electric bill on a monthly basis, even though it is going to cost you on the initial investment in the unit.
For example, a new car is likely to have more features and better gas mileage than the clunker you just sold for scrap metal. Over time, the new car is likely to save you more money on your maintenance bills, including the cost of gas each week.
A new air conditioner is likely to demonstrate the same kind of savings on a month to month basis. Newer models tend to be more energy efficient, as evidenced by the Energy Guide you will find for each model. Their SEER rating, the score that tells you how efficient they are at cooling your home compared to the amount of electricity they use, is consistently getting higher with each new model on the market.
Homeowners may still struggle with the idea of investing in an entirely new air conditioning system, even though they are aware of the potential for monthly savings. Hesitation is reasonable when you consider the sometimes-exorbitant cost of purchasing a new HVAC system.
If you think that investing in an entirely new air conditioner may be the best option for your home, how do you know when your old unit is officially ready to be retired? Knowing just when to draw the line can prevent you from spending unnecessary money in repairs. You may also have more peace of mind that you’re making a wise decision financially when you can objectively look at the overall performance of your unit.
The most obvious sign that it’s time to replace your unit is when it clears its tenth birthday. Repairs are likely to come more frequently once your air conditioner is more than a decade old, which means it’s close to the end of its lifespan. If your unit goes out and the technician quotes you on a pricey repair, it’s a good time to start considering complete replacement instead of frequent repairs.
Even if the repairs aren’t particularly expensive, several smaller bills can certainly add up over time. Do you find yourself becoming friendlier with your repair technician? When you invite the HVAC company to your home every couple of months, your unit is clearly nearing the end of its expected lifespan.
Considering the cost of your repair bills is crucial when it comes to making the decision to replace your air conditioner. You need to compare the cost of these repairs to the overall cost of having an entirely new unit installed. If the repairs represent a number that is staggeringly close to the cost of a new unit, homeowners should be advised to consider investing in a new unit instead.
An outrageous repair bill isn’t likely to be the last one for the foreseeable future. As your air conditioner ages, the repairs will come more frequently and the cost will continue to rise. When you consider the savings that also accompany a new air conditioner with better technology and energy efficiency, the wise financial decision is typically to invest in a new system.
The government’s Energy Star program advises homeowners to consider replacing their system after ten years have passed for monthly savings that could be up to 20 percent of your current cooling expenses.
Their checklist of features to weigh when it’s time to purchase a new unit also includes items such as:
- Higher energy bills than usual
- Inconsistent temperatures throughout the home
- Humidity issues
- Excessive noise from the air conditioning system
These items can be key factors in deciding to purchase a new more energy efficient model to cool your home.
A higher energy bill than usual indicates that your unit isn’t running as efficiently as it should. More electricity is required to keep your home at the same consistent temperature. Alternatively, your cooling system may be using more electricity but still struggling to keep the interior temperature of your home at the desired degree. This is where the largest cost savings comes in when you purchase a new unit.
You’re likely to see a huge difference in the total of your electric bill the very first month that a new unit is installed.
Inconsistent temperatures throughout the home are also a warning sign that your unit isn’t running efficiently. This may signal that there is a larger issue with your ductwork that could be unrelated to the unit. Either way, this means that the cold air produced by your air conditioner isn’t being pumped into certain areas of your home.
Whether the cold air isn’t being produced in a large enough quantity or it’s being lost through leaky ductwork, this problem can cost you significantly in the long run. You’re wasting valuable electricity on air conditioning that isn’t even cooling down your home properly. It’s time seek out professional advice on what could solve this problem.
Higher humidity levels are a symptom that your air conditioner isn’t running efficiently as well. Typically, an air conditioner runs at a lower level of power for a longer period of time in order to thoroughly cool down the entire room from the walls to the furniture to the air itself. If the unit isn’t running properly, it may be working just hard enough to chill the air in the room without allowing it to remain cool for a longer period of time.
As a result, the unit isn’t able to thoroughly draw the humidity out of your home. While this may not seem like an immediate issue for many homeowners, a higher level of humidity inside of the home can make it feel warmer than it really is. Consider how muggy it can feel outside when a rain is coming. It may feel oppressively warm even though the temperature is actually on the cooler side.
The same effect can occur within your home. High humidity levels lead you to believe that your home is warmer than it truly is, prompting you to turn down the air conditioning even further.
When your air conditioner is functioning properly, it can pull most of the excess humidity out of the air and make your home feel far more comfortable. You’ll no longer feel quite so clammy, wrapped up in the moisture and the cold air. You can feel calm, cool, and dry when the air conditioner is running the way that it should.
The last symptom given by Energy Star typically goes hand in hand with frequent repair bills. You know that a repair is necessary when you can suddenly hear loud noises that are out of the norm for your unit. Clanking, grinding, squeaking, and squealing are all clear signs that your unit is begging for professional attention.
However, the noise could also be far subtler than the obvious warning sign that your unit is breaking down. Over time, you may gradually notice that the system is much louder than it was when originally purchased. Perhaps the sound is keeping you up at night when you never used to notice it. Maybe you find yourself annoyed or startled each time you hear it kick on throughout the afternoon.
Maybe you’re simply noticing that the fan is constantly running on your air conditioner. If it never shuts off, there’s more noise than there should be which can indicate a large problem.
Whatever the issue is that brings the sound to your attention, a noisy unit is usually a prominent indicator that you will need to soon investigate replacing your entire unit.
If you’re not sure whether or not your home can benefit from replacing your air conditioner, ask for the professional opinion and guidance of your local HVAC expert or technician. They may be able to generate a report that shows you just what repairs are on the horizon for your unit and estimate the cost to repair it. Ask for a second quote for the cost of a new unit entirely.
View the repair estimate side by side with the estimate of an entirely new unit with installation to determine whether it is the best possible fit for your home. You may be pleasantly surprised at just how much a new, more energy efficient unit could save you on cooling costs each month.
The Real Cost to Cool Your Home
Using simple strategies like the ones contained in this guide can ultimately help you to lower your monthly cooling costs and your overall electric bill. You’ll find new ways to make your home more energy efficient instead of throwing money away month after month.
However, you’ve likely realized that each of these suggestions and expert tips for cutting down your costs is going to involve some sort of sacrifice on your part. Homeowners can make slight alterations to their comfort levels and daily activities in order to find greater financial freedom from their high monthly expenses. While some of these suggestions do cost money upfront, they’re also likely to save you more in the long run.
Take a close look at your current electric bill and then choose just a handful of suggestions from this listing. You may choose to weatherize your home or enlist the help of a professional HVAC technician to keep your system running smoothly.
After a few months, evaluate where your electric bill is and revel in the potential savings that is generated from being proactive. You’ll have more money to spend and fewer worries that clutter your mind regarding the bills at the end of the month. Won’t it feel good to relax in cool comfort, knowing that you’re also saving money on your monthly bills?