Having air conditioning to keep you and your family cool in your home in summer is a great convenience and at times a welcome respite from the excessive heat outdoors.
However, it can work out to be costly if you're not careful and these days of rising energy costs can put a heavy strain on even the best managed household budget.
So how can you enjoy the benefits of air conditioning without incurring the high costs that turn a necessity into a luxury?
Happily, there are some things you can do to lower your energy usage and thereby reduce your electricity costs through the summer to help give you at least some leeway with your home's budget.
Make Friends with the Thermostat
The first place to look is also probably the biggest energy wasting aspect of any home's HVAC system when it's not managed properly. It's the thermostat.
Many homes I personally visit during summer are so cold inside I need to wrap up in a blanket or remember to take my fleece-lined jacket with me, even when it's sweltering outside! Why is this when it obviously costs a small fortune to run the AC so hard?
A quick glance at the home's main (or only) central thermostat provides the answer. Many people erroneously believe they should turn the temperature down to 65 degrees or lower to compensate for the high heat outside. This is wrong!
Arctic Temperatures in Summer
By forcing the AC to work so hard to get the inside of a house down to even 65 degrees when it's maybe 95 or even 100 outside, you are sending your electricity consumption spiralling out of control (in the wrong direction). It takes a huge amount of energy to reduce the inside temperature by 30 degrees (or way more) lower than it is outside.
Not only that, but it is completely unnecessary to be shivering inside when you can likely fry an egg on the hood of your car outside!
The sensible and economically minded householder will set their thermostat to a higher temperature so it's still comfortable inside without feeling cold. A good point is around 72-75 degrees. This can also be set on individual portable air conditioners and mini-split units too.
Temperate is Comfort
I know that might at first glance seem a little high. But when you think about it, that's more or less the kind of temperature range you would be aiming to maintain to feel comfortably warm in winter.
The main point of HVAC is to maintain a fairly even indoor temperature throughout the year for your comfort. That means not allowing it to get too hot in summer or too cold in winter.
By setting the thermostat at a year-round temperate level, you'll always feel comfortable and at the same time be saving energy by not making the system work harder than it needs to. That equates to saving money on your electricity bill!
Other Cool Ideas
Aside from setting the system to work as efficiently as it is designed to work, there are some other ways of reducing the load on that system in summer. Here are a few tips:
Use an evaporative cooler:
An economical cooling alternative to air conditioning is to use an evaporative, or swamp cooler in place of more expensive portable or room AC units. Evaporative coolers use a fraction of the electricity (that AC uses) to produce cold air.
The only major downside is you need to live in an area that has a low humidity climate. For more information, see my article on Swamp Coolers.
Increase shading on the outside of the house:
This may seem simple and low-tech, but it works! By preventing the sun from directly heating up the walls of the building, you reduce the amount of heat that can conduct through the walls, making less work for the AC.
Install Window blinds and awnings:
This goes hand-in-hand with shading by keeping the sun's rays off the windows and excluding another way for excess heat to get inside the house.
Insulate the attic space:
By insulating the attic, you not only provide a way to keep more of the precious heat inside during summer, but you also help to keep more of the outside heat from radiating down through the roof space to the inside. Sure, I know heat rises and all, but of the attic heats up and there's no insulation, that heat will still find its way down into the upper floor of your home and make your AC work harder.
Install an attic fan:
This goes well with attic insulation by providing some air-flow in the roof space that can also help to keep temperatures down up there. By having some vents put in at either end of the attic, you can create better air circulation too.
I hope that helps you to reduce your energy costs by some simple yet effective measures that you can take to reduce the load on your AC system.
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