Air-conditioning: it's a relief on a hot summer's day — until your monthly utility bill arrives. But it doesn't have to be that way. With the right air conditioning unit and a few good habits, you can stay cool for a lot less this summer.
Choosing the Right Air Conditioner
If you’re in the market for a new air conditioner, stick to ENERGY STAR-qualified models, which use at least 14 percent less electricity than conventional models. They also often include useful features such as timers, temperature sensors and programmable thermostats that can save you money by making sure you don’t over-cool your home.
Be careful when deciding on air conditioner size. Many people buy air conditioners that are bigger than they need. For example, a 10,000 BTU model will cool a 400 square foot area; but you only need a 5,000 BTU model to cool a 150 square foot room. Smaller units will cost less and use less energy — which means they’ll also be cheaper to operate.
If you have a no-frills air conditioner that works just fine and aren’t planning on buying a new model, there are still plenty of energy savings.
Smart Air Conditioning Operation
First of all, disregard the myth that an air conditioner works harder to recool a warm house than it does maintaining a cool temperature. While it does take more energy to run an air conditioner at full blast than it does to run it on low, the difference is a fraction of the energy needed to keep a house cool all day long while there’s nobody there to enjoy it — especially since many people keep their AC on high even when they're not home.
So turn down your air conditioning when you leave the house and when you go to sleep; when it’s not that hot, turn it off all together. If, when you come home, your house or apartment is hotter inside than the air outside, don’t turn on the air conditioning right away. Instead, open a window and let the natural breezes cool your room first, and then turn on your air conditioning. Even better, on mild days, leave the windows open and just use a fan.
When you do turn your your air conditioner back on, set its thermostat to your ideal temperature. Setting it to a colder than desired temperature won’t cool down your house any quicker — it will just keep your the unit working longer than necessary.
Finally, make sure to clean your unit regularly. A clogged filter will not only force your air conditioner to work harder, it also will send out less cool air.