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How To Reduce Cooling Costs

We all enjoy the comfort of a home air conditioner in the summer. However, few of us enjoy receiving our electric utility bills.

energy chart

With the price of electrical energy continually on the rise, there are a few things that a homeowner can do to reduce the cost of operating a central air conditioning system, window or portable air conditioner in their home while still enjoying the benefits and comfort of a cooler home.

By following these simple ideas, you can maintain a cool home, reduce energy costs and at the same time do your bit for the environment.

Some of the following ideas relate specifically to window or portable air conditioners, while others are specific to central air conditioning systems. Many apply to all!

A lot of the heat that enters our homes comes from the sun penetrating the windows. The use of window coverings, such as shutters, drapes, window blinds and window shades will help reduce the amount of heat that enters the home through the windows.

Ceiling fans circulate air and by doing so help to eliminate hot and cold spots that are common in air conditioned homes. The use of a ceiling fan, even though it uses electrical power to operate will in general reduce the amount of time that the air conditioner air compressor is operating which draws the most power and hence is the highest cost.

A properly serviced air conditioner will draw less electricity then a unit that is not maintained properly. This applies to window air conditioners, portable air conditioners and central air conditioning systems.

Proper air conditioner service includes:

  1. Ensuring that refrigerant levels are correct.
  2. Filters are not clogged (filters should be cleaned and or replaced monthly during the cooling season).
  3. Fan belts are tight and not warn.
  4. Motors are functioning at peak performance (bearings are not worn).
  5. Fan blades and/or blowers are clean and are not wobbling.
  6. All nuts, bolts and screws are tight.
  7. Thermostats are operating correctly (turning the unit "ON" and "OFF" at the preset temperature.
  8. The appliance is clean and free from dust, dog and cat hair and other contaminants.
  9. Clean any debris that may have accumulated during the off season on the outdoor portions of the air conditioning equipment.
  10. If you have a central air conditioning system, ensure that the ducts are clean and free of debris, dirt and dust.
  11. When the house is vacant, turn the air conditioning off or at a minimum raise the turn-on temperature and/or reduce the fan speed. Without occupants in the home, the home requires less cooling. As well, the heat that enters the home when people come and go is not prevalent.
  12. It is important that the outdoor side of a window air conditioner or the compressor portion of a central air conditioning system have adequate space to vent exhaust air. Do not allow plants to grow around the outdoor portions of the air conditioning system. As well, make sure that grass clippings are not blown into the compressor units, and that leaves and other debris do not hamper air flow. A good rule of thumb is to keep a minimum of 3 clear feet on all sides of the outdoor equipment.

Note 1: When an air conditioning unit sits idle for a number of months, it can be the perfect breeding ground for molds, mildew, bacteria and other contaminates. Once the air conditioner is turned "ON" in the summer mold spores and other contaminates can be delivered throughout the home if the unit has not been serviced properly before start-up.

Note 2: Some studies have shown that a properly serviced air conditioner can reduce cooling costs by as much as 5%.

Old air conditioners and air conditioner systems are not as energy efficient as new models. If your air conditioning system is 10 years old or older, consider replacing it with a new energy efficient appliance.

Always remember that preventative maintenance of air conditioning systems is far less expensive than paying for repairs to an air conditioning system that has broken down.