As we venture forward into the summer months, no doubt you’re familiar with the ambient noise of your air conditioner running constantly to keep you and your home cool. During this time, you’re probably anticipating a spike in your electric bill, and you want to know how you can moderate the cost without sacrificing your home temperature.
The question is: are there other ways to lower the costs involved with cooling your home by using air-conditioning? Surprisingly, there are several simple things you can do to minimize your electric bill without ever sacrificing your air conditioning.
- Minimize Phantom Loads
What is a phantom load? A Phantom load is an appliance or electronic device that consumes energy when it is actually turned off. Phantom loads lurk everywhere in your home and you never think about them because it’s not obvious to you that the toaster, the television, and even your phone charger are sucking electricity that you are being charged for every month— even though they are turned “off” or not in use.
Many appliances and gadgets are actually designed this way because they utilize continuous displays and standby – or resting – states. And when you are looking for rooms in your house that harbor these phantom loads, don’t forget the kitchen and your living room. Rooms with TVs and cables can cost you upwards of $50 to $100 a year. And with the amount of technology in modern homes increasing, some anticipate that excess phantom loads are costing $200.00 or more annually.
However, there are ways you can easily stop the worst offenders in your home. By using a Kill-a-Watt meter, you can test each appliance and see how much power each appliance is using. Lastly, plugging your electronics or appliances into a power strip also help minimize phantom loads, as well since it has a very deliberate off-switch.
- Use More Energy Efficient Appliances
If you are looking for new appliances, be sure that the appliance has the Environmental Protection Agency’s Energy Star Label before making a purchase. Products that carry this designation use between 10% to 50% less energy than their conventional counterparts. Energy Star appliances generally cost slightly more than other products but the energy savings that you will reap will more than make up for the extra cost of the product.
- Change Out Your Light Bulbs
One of the most energy efficient and least expensive ways to cut the cost of your electric bill is by replacing your regular incandescent light bulbs with an Energy Star compact fluorescent light bulb, or a CFL light bulb. They only cost a few bucks but they will save you over $30 over each bulb’s lifetime. In addition, each bulb uses 75% less energy than a conventional bulb.
That said, there has been some hesitancy among the public because the bulbs contain mercury, but Energy Star says that they do not release any mercury when used properly and generally last 10 times longer than a regular incandescent bulb. According to studies, each qualified compact fluorescent light bulb you install will pay for itself in six months and save you over $30 during its operational lifetime.
- Install A Programmable Thermostat
Programmable thermostats are all the rage today. With them, you can easily adjust your home’s temperature according to your schedule and your needs. As an example, you can start off the day at 7 a.m. by setting the thermostat to 76º. When you leave for work at 9 a.m., you can have the temperature adjust 80º as you leave home. When you leave work and arrive home at 6 p.m. you can have the temperature set to a comfortable 78º.
The variations are limitless, but the bottom line is that by using a program for your thermostat you will save money on your electricity usage. Think of the possibilities — you can have one program for work weeks, another program for vacations or trips, and even programs for the weekend if you want. Entek offers several Wi-Fi programmable thermostats that can be viewed and managed from your smart phone. The choices are endless.
- Use Fans for Additional Cooling
During the summer months, use a stationary fan — or if you are lucky enough to have a fixed ceiling fan, use them in the early evening or day to help cool your house and your family. You will be surprised at how effective these types of fans are. The use of either kind of fan can significantly lower the cost of running an air conditioner. This can reduce your cooling costs by 7% to 10%.
- Seal All Air Leaks
Despite tighter homes and increased energy code requirements in new construction, many homes are leaking valuable air conditioning and heating in many ways.
Recent reports cited by the US Department of Energy found the single most effective means of conserving home energy for many homeowners is air duct sealing. The average home in the U.S. loses about 25 to 40 percent of heated or cooled air through leaks found throughout a home’s air duct system. Even newly built homes are, more often than not, plagued by leaky air ducts. These leaks divert heated and cooled air from their intended destination, reducing efficiency and thereby increasing your monthly utility bill.
- Make Your Windows More Efficient
Generally, window glass is very thin and many builders only use one pane of glass. While this is barely sufficient, it is much better and more efficient to have double and even triple pane storm windows. Although replacing all the widows in a home can be expensive and time consuming, these kinds of windows dramatically lower your heating and cooling bills because between each pane of glass is an insulating barrier of air that keeps the hot and cold air out of your house and self-regulates the house temperature.
- Improve Your Insulation
Since the majority of your home’s energy goes towards heating and cooling, it seems obvious that one of the things you should do is improve the insulation of your home. You can do this one of two ways: either use regular fiberglass batting or the newer spray foam insulation. It is recommended that you should call an insulation specialist to get some ideas on how to accomplish the best insulation upgrade for your home.
- Setting The AC Temperature Higher at Night
No matter what part of the world you live in, when it’s night, the temperature drops. As a result, you don’t need your AC on as low of a temperature as you would during the day since your home is already cooling. So don’t be wary of raising the temperature of your air conditioner as it will lower your overall bill due to less AC use.
- Service Your AC Unit Regularly
Basic maintenance is all you really need to keep your air conditioner in tip-top shape. Keeping the area around your air conditioner free from air obstruction is critical. Changing out your filters on a regular basis is one the of most important things a homeowner can do since, when your filters are clogged with dirt or pet hair, your AC unit needs to work harder to cool. This can quickly lead to expensive repairs.
Additionally, it’s important to keep landscape plants trimmed away from the outdoor unit. To achieve maximum performance, energy efficiency and stated life expectancy of equipment, air conditioning provided by a traditional heat pump or a ductless heat pump should be inspected and serviced by a certified HVAC technician biannually.