According to the U.S. Department of Energy, air conditioning accounts for about six percent of all the electricity manufactured in the U.S. and costs American homeowners a collective $29 billion a year. On an individual level, running your central air conditioning can cost an average of $3.84 a day, which is more than $115 a month. With energy costs rising, it makes sense to take steps to make sure your A/C unit is operating at maximum efficiency.
Fortunately, you don’t have to spend a lot of extra money to keep your air conditioner humming along. In addition to getting a regular A/C tune-up, you can install a smart thermostat and take steps to keep the inside of your home from warming up too much during the hottest part of the day. With a little extra diligence, you can keep your energy costs low without sacrificing comfort. Here are five ways to ensure your A/C unit is running as efficiently as possible.
1. TURN YOUR THERMOSTAT UP
Perhaps the easiest and cheapest thing you can do to maximize the efficiency of your air conditioner is to simply turn your thermostat up. If you can be comfortable at a higher temperature, you won’t have to spend as much money to cool your home. Even the best A/C units can’t make up for the monetary gain that simply turning up your thermostat can bring.
If you haven’t already, you should consider updating to a digital or smart thermostat. A digital thermostat can be programmed so that you only run your central air when you’re at home and active. That way, you don’t waste money cooling your home while you aren’t there.
A smart thermostat allows you to control the temperature of your home remotely, so you can adjust your thermostat if you’re going to be returning home, for example. Some of today’s smart thermostats will even monitor your family’s activity, learn your patterns and program themselves accordingly.
2. MAINTAIN YOUR A/C PROPERLY
Regular A/C maintenance is one of the best things you can do to improve your HVAC efficiency and prevent breakdowns. A yearly HVAC tune-up can keep your system functioning properly and identify issues before they arise so you can avoid unexpected HVAC failures. While you can perform some maintenance tasks, such as changing your HVAC filter on your own, other tasks, such as inspecting and cleaning your home A/C compressor, should be left to the professionals.
Schedule yearly A/C maintenance early in the spring so you can be ready for hot weather and avoid the rush of last-minute calls from procrastinators or those with HVAC breakdowns. Ensure your maintenance technician knows how to maintain your particular A/C unit and cleans the indoor drain line while working on your unit. American Home Shield members receive access to discounted A/C system tune-ups or one free tune-up annually with a ShieldPlatinum home service plan.
3. CLOSE YOUR CURTAINS
Natural light is wonderful, but the rays of sunlight streaming through your windows can raise the interior temperature of your home and force your A/C unit to work harder. You can ease the burden on your unit and lower your cooling costs simply by closing your curtains and blinds, at least during the hottest part of the day.
Not an option? This might take a few years to make a difference, but you could install a few shrubs and trees to naturally shade your home. Or you could install low-emissivity (or Low-E) windows. These windows have a reflective coating that keeps heat out while letting light in. Whatever type of windows you have, make sure the seals are tight and re-caulk if necessary to keep cool air from escaping (or your money could be going out the window!)
4. INSULATE YOUR DUCTWORK
If your HVAC’s ductwork runs through a non-air-conditioned space, then all that freshly cooled air could be warming up on its way to your vents. Insulate your ductwork to keep the cool air your HVAC produces cooler as it travels through your home’s ventilation system.
Got leaky ductwork? Seal up leaks with a UL 181-rated duct-sealing tape. You may also want to have your ductwork inspected during your next HVAC maintenance visit.
5. USE APPLIANCES WISELY
Some appliances, like your oven and clothes dryer, can heat up the inside of your house and increase your cooling costs. To minimize the impact of heat-generating appliances on your energy bills, avoid using your oven or clothes dryer during the hottest part of the day. For maximum energy efficiency, use them at night when it will be easiest for your unit to keep your home cool.
While you’re at it, make sure you don’t have any lamps or other heat-generating appliances near your thermostat. Lamps and appliances that warm up the air around your thermostat can throw off its measurement of indoor air temperatures, making your A/C unit work harder because it thinks the inside of your home is warmer than it actually is.
Keeping your A/C unit in good working order can maximize its efficiency and keep your energy costs down, so you can focus on staying cool all season long.
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