9 ways to cool down air-conditioning costs
Heating and air conditioning your home take a 43 percent bite from your monthly utility bill, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. Here's how to reduce those costs in summer (according to the website Bankrate.com).
1. Improve plantings around your house. Planting leafy trees around the building's exterior will stop the sun from reaching inside your home. Even for the cost of going to the nursery and buying a 15- to 20-foot-tall tree, trees are still the best value.
2. Clothe your windows. Solar screens, or mesh-like window screens, intercept up to 70 percent of solar energy before it gets into the house, Krigger says. Window screens are particularly effective on east- and west-facing windows, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.
3. Flip a switch. Lower your air conditioner's thermostat setting to 78 degrees Fahrenheit when you're at home. But let that number rise to a warmer temperature at night or when you're away from home. You can save 5 percent to 15 percent on your air-conditioning bills by raising the temperature setting on your thermostat when you're away and don't need cooling, according to the Department of Energy.
4. Fan it. If possible, locate fans on your house's upper level and open windows on a lower level. If you live in a one-story house or apartment, you should close windows near the fan and open windows in rooms far from the fan, preferably on your home's windward side, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.
5. Chill in the basement. Camp out in your basement, says Stan Cox, author of "Losing Our Cool: Uncomfortable Truths About Our Air-Conditioned World (and Finding New Ways to Get Through the Summer)." In your eco-cooled basement, a television, couch or futon and a cold drink may be all you need. However, Scheckel says don't open basement windows when outdoor air is heavy with humidity. "Warm, moist air will cause condensation on cool surfaces such as basement walls, ultimately increasing the humidity in your home," he says.
6. Don't bake or cook on the stove. Skip the stove-top boiling and oven baking, Cox says. Decrease indoor heat by making microwave nachos or eating a cool salad. If you must boil pasta for tomorrow's potluck, cook in the evening. After cooking, turn on the kitchen exhaust, and use the bathroom exhaust fan after a hot shower.
7. Maintain or replace your AC (air conditioner). AC efficiency is mostly a function of the technology. Keep the filter clean to allow for good air movement and keep the unit level so the condensation drains properly. If you replace your older room air conditioner with a newer unit, you could cut your energy costs in half, according to the Department of Energy. Look for a high-energy-efficiency ratio, or EER, or an Energy Star-qualified unit. Higher EER ratings mean a more efficient air conditioner. Energy Star refers to a system adopted by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Energy to identify energy-efficient products.
8. Let humidity set your AC pace. Set the AC fan speed on high, except on very humid days, says the U.S. Department of Energy. On humid days, set the speed on low. The slower air movement through the air-condition equipment removes more moisture from the air, improving comfort in your home.
9. Splash in the bath. Hop in the shower, spray yourself with a water bottle or use a cool cloth on the back of your neck. And if you don't chill out right away, don't give up, says Cox, the environmental writer and scientist. "Our comfort range depends on the temperatures we have experienced in recent days and weeks," he says. "The body and mind adjust to rising temperatures."
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