A recent publication by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) noted that in 1993, only 68 percent of homes had air conditioning. Today, there are 100 million homes with air-conditioning systems, which equates to 87 percent of households in America.
Fortunately, energy efficiency standards have improved for air conditioners, so newer, bigger homes are not seeing an increase in electricity cost. However, the cost of cooling a home or business is still a significant electricity expense during the summer. Overall, the EIA estimates that cooling accounts for 6.2 percent of the annual energy use in all homes across the U.S., but it should be noted that there are regional differences. For example, in Texas, air conditioning is 18 percent of total energy consumption in homes.
There are a lot of tips and tricks for reducing your AC costs, depending on the system you have and how you use it. Some strategies will create a noticeable difference right away, while others build up over time. Below are the top solutions that will have the biggest impact right off the bat, and could lower your energy consumption by an impressive 10 to 50 percent.
Upgrade to an Energy Efficient System
By far, the best way to reduce monthly bills is to invest in a newer, more efficient system if your current AC unit is 10 years old or older. As noted above, new systems are so efficient they can heat a home that’s 30% bigger for the same cost. The two most important factors for getting the most efficient AC system are correct sizing and SEER rating. Your new system should be SEER 13 or higher.
It’s just as important to choose your installers carefully because the Department of Energy notes that improper installation can cause up to 27% of the energy to be lost. Look for an installer that is a part of the ENERGY STAR Quality Installation (QI) program.
Air Conditioning Energy Reduction: 20-50%
Have Your Old AC System Serviced
This may seem like you’re adding to the AC expenses at first, but the cost of professional servicing will be recouped. An annual AC service can significantly improve the efficiency of your equipment and identify problems before they become serious issues. Having your AC serviced will also provide long-term benefits such as an increased lifespan for your equipment. During the inspection key cooling elements such as the refrigerant, evaporator coil, compressor and condenser should be examined.
Air Conditioning Energy Reduction: 20+%
Install and/or Use a Programmable Thermostat
Both Energy Star and EIA suggest that people install and use a programmable thermostat to reduce energy use. With a programmable thermostat your AC unit can be set to automatically increase the temperature when you’re at work or at night when you’re in bed without you having to think about it. Most thermostats will allow for up to 6 pre-set schedules. For the highest efficiency try to keep the cool temperature at 78° F when you’re home and bump it up to 85° F when you’re away. Another trick is to set the AC fan speed lower on humid days so it removes moisture more efficiently. Check out “Which Smart Thermostat Is Right For You?” on Earth911TV.
Air Conditioning Energy Reduction: 10%
Replace Air Filters Regularly
In just a few minutes, for roughly $10 every couple of months, you could reduce your AC’s energy consumption by 5 to 15 percent. How? By changing out your air filter. In the summer when the AC is constantly running, two months is the minimum, but you may want to change it out every month for maximum savings.
Air Conditioning Energy Reduction: Up to 15%
When you turn on your fan you can turn the temperature up on your AC unit by about 4 degrees. Our bodies feel cooler when there is less moisture in the air. AC systems help to draw moisture out of the air and fans can help too. When a fan is blowing it helps to dry any moisture that is on your skin, which will leave you feeling cooler. Fans also help to circulate the air, which makes the room feel more comfortable. Just don’t forget to switch the rotation so that the blades are going counterclockwise, and turn the fan off when you leave a room or you’ll waste energy.
Air Conditioning Energy Reduction: Up to 12%
These five strategies have proven to be the best way to dramatically reduce AC energy use during the summer. For more tips, visit energy.gov.