Air conditioning sucks up almost 20 percent of the average homeowner’s utility bill and contributes to pollution that adversely affects the quality of the air we breathe. As air conditioning season descends, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency offers the following simple tips for reducing your cooling bill this summer.
1. Change to more efficient light bulbs. Energy Star-qualified lighting not only uses less energy, but also produces approximately 75 percent less heat than incandescent lighting.
2. Find the best thermostat settings. If you have a programmable thermostat, set it a few degrees higher (to about 78 degrees) when no one is home.
3. Use ceiling fans optimally. Run your ceiling fan to create a cool breeze. If you raise your thermostat by only 2 degrees and use your ceiling fan, you can lower cooling costs by up to 14 percent. Remember that ceiling fans cool you, not the room, so when you leave the room make sure to turn off the fan. (If you’re in the market, Emerson makes the most energy-efficient ceiling fan.)
4. Maximize shade. Pull the curtains and shades closed before you leave your home to keep the sun’s rays from overheating the interior. If you can, move container trees and plants in front of sun-exposed windows to serve as shade.
5. Reduce oven time. Use a microwave or toaster oven instead of an oven to cook, when you can. Ovens take longer to cook food and can make your house warmer.
6. Check air conditioner filters. Check your cooling system’s air filter every month. If the filter looks dirty, change it. A good rule is to change the filter at least every three months. A dirty filter will slow air flow and make the system work harder to keep you cool—wasting energy. Also, remember to have your system serviced annually.
7. Plug duct system leaks. As much as 20 percent of the air moving through your home’s duct system is lost to leaks and poor connections. Seal duct work using mastic sealant or metal tape and insulate all the ducts that you can access (such as those in attics, crawlspaces, unfinished basements, and garages). Also, make sure that connections at vents and registers are well-sealed where they meet floors, walls and ceilings.
For more information on ways to cut energy costs this summer, visit www.energystar.gov/cooltips.
A good ceiling fan can help you reduce cooling bills by as much as 14 percent.