Air conditioning and thermostat savings tips
Depending on where you live, air conditioning can be responsible for a fair amount of your summer electric bills, and as much as half of your winter electric bills if you have an electric heat pump. Changes in how you use your AC can help you keep more money in your pocket.
Replace your AC unit
Replacing a 10-year-old central AC unit with one of today’s Energy Star models can cut what you spend to cool your home by 30-50%. Central AC units are rated for efficiency using a Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER) rating. This is the cooling output during a typical cooling season divided by the total energy input during the same timeframe. The higher the SEER rating, the more efficient the unit performs. For example, upgrading from an old SEER 7 unit to an Energy Star qualified unit with a minimum SEER of at least 14.5 will save you around $700 a year, depending on the rate you pay for your electricity. A new $3,000 SEER 14.5 will pay for itself in less than five years. After that you’re putting money in your pocket.
Check your thermostat
Reducing your thermostat three to four degrees will save you about 10% on your summer cooling bills. This is based upon a rule of thumb that you save approximately three percent for every degree warmer you set your thermostat. So a 10% savings on $100 average monthly bills keeps $120 in your pocket every year. On a $200 average monthly bills you save $240 annually. Setting your thermostat at 78°F is a good place to start.
Stay cool with the higher thermostat settings by using ceiling fans to make you feel three to seven degrees cooler. You can also stay cool with higher settings by using halogen, CFL and LED lightbulbs because they produce less heat. Furthermore blocking out as much sun as possible with window shades and blinds will help keep your AC from running as much at whatever temperature you have it set at.
If you live in a climate that gets cool at night, you can turn off your AC and open your windows to take advantage of the outside cool air while you sleep. When you wake, close your windows and close your blinds to capture the cool air as long as you can before needing to turn on the air conditioning again.
When the weather turns colder, set your thermostat at 68°F to start. If you can lower the temperature three or four degrees, you can get savings very similar to your summer savings.
It may sound counter intuitive, but running your ceiling fans in the winter can help you feel warmer if you set the fan to turn the opposite way so it pulls the air up. Going back to high school science, we can recall that hot air rises. When the fan pulls the air up it pushes the warmer air located up near the ceiling back down into the room, making you feel warmer. Of course throwing on a sweater or blanket can also keep you warm and toasty when the thermostat is set a few degrees cooler.
Upgrade to a programmable thermostat
Installing a programmable thermostat allows you to set the temperature in the summer four to six degrees higher when you’re away from home at work and let the thermostat automatically lower the temperature back down to 78°F shortly before you return home. In the winter you would lower the temperature when you’re away then allow the thermostat to raise it back up to 68°F before you return. This can slice five to 20% off your electric bills.
It will cost you from $50 to $150 to purchase a programmable thermostat. you can install it yourself in about an hour. If you use it for heating and cooling, the savings will pay off the cost in about a year. After that you just keep the monthly savings.