In some states, summer means endless fun during the day and joyous, lukewarm temperatures at night—perhaps opportune for an outdoor barbecue of sorts. In other states, summer means the coming of hades, a time when people scurry into their dwellings never to face the doldrums of wanton heat over the next few months. I’m taking to you, Texas and Arizona.
The typical US home spends 17 percent of its annual energy bill on cooling. In the hot months, these costs invariably spike. Some estimate in warmer climates air conditioning costs exceed 70 percent of the total bill. This, of course, is a travesty for those who already have to deal with the chokingly hot temperatures.
So, for the desert rats and the southern sweaties, here’s a quick rundown of the ways in which you can effectively reduce air conditioning costs.
Open your vents. It’s a debate in the HVAC community whether closing vents in certain rooms and opening them in others improves energy efficiency. Some believe closing vents in rooms you don’t often venture into allows you to save money because the unused air goes into rooms you regularly inhabit, twice as powerfully.
However, according to Air Source America, when you block a vent in a few rooms, the system has to work hard to force the air out, causing an increase in pressure. This pressure is sometimes sucked into attics and crawlspaces and even within walls. In effect, closing these vents reduces efficiency, which forces you to pay higher utility bills. So, open your vents if you want to maximize energy efficiency.
Invest in a programmable thermostat, STAT. Nobody’s perfect. Sometimes we leave the house and forget to turn off the light or the television or the air conditioning. The EPA estimates homes with programmable thermostats save up to $180 a year. These thermostats allow you to preplan your cooling and heating, allotting up to six temperature settings per day. If you’re away from home, you can time it so the air conditioning is lighter; if you know when you’ll be home, you can time it so the air conditioning will be heavier.
Nest thermostat: The maximization of energy efficiency should pay you back for the investment within a year or two. You can find the Nest and other programmable thermostats at Lowe’s, Home Depot or Best Buy.
Get a diagnostic from a professional. It is advised to hire a neighborhood utilities professional to review your home’s situation. They will be able to point out any inefficiencies. Like a doctor performing a physical, they will provide the antidote to your overpaying and suggest whom to call.
Cover your windows with solar or mesh screens. The sun comes in from the east and the west. This light permeates windows and causes a swell of interior heat. Some say solar or mesh screens intercept up to 70 percent of solar energy coming in. These shades cost around $40 a pop, and they are an investment well worth it. You can find many different types from websites that specialize in blinds including BlindSaver and Blinds.com. And because it is such a popular commodity, especially in the summer months, stores like JCPenney, Home Depot and Lowe’s offer them as well.
When in doubt, upgrade to Energy Star. Energy Star air conditioners use up to 50 percent less than those manufactured in the 90s. Replace your old one with a more efficient model. Simply look for the Energy Star logo; this logo implies a minimum 10 percent higher efficiency than the federal standard that was established on October 1, 2000.