10 tips to lower Air Conditioning bills

Hand holding remote with air conditioner in background.

Just when you think it can't get any hotter, it does.Lucky you. You've got air conditioning.

Lucky you. You've got air conditioning bills.

But they don't have to be astronomically high. 

There are little things you can do in your home that can add up to big savings on your utility bills next month.

Here are 10 ways to lower air cooling usage during the dog days of summer - and still maintain your cool.

1   Dial Up the Air Conditioning Temperature

To reduce your energy bills during the hottest days of the year, raise your air conditioner's thermostat setting to 78 degrees Fahrenheit when you're at home, and higher while you're at work. 

You can save as much as 10 percent on your energy bills by raising the AC temperature settings seven to 10 degrees for eight hours a day.  Suffer a little heat now, reap the monetary rewards next month.

2   Use a Programmable Thermostat 

Consider installing a programmable thermostat with a built-in timer. While you can easily adjust the thermostat yourself, a programmable thermostat cut energy usage by adjusting temperatures while you're away or asleep.

3   Close Up and Lighten Up

To keep your home cool, close curtains, blinds, and shades during daylight hours. Whatever your window treatments, you'll see significant savings if you keep them drawn all day to prevent solar heat gain.

Choose light-colored window treatments. The lighter the color, the more they'll deflect the sun's scorching rays. Hang window treatments as close to windowpanes as possible, as this enables them to also block outdoor heat from radiating outside. 

Open your windows, especially at night. This is an effortless cooling technique - cross ventilation.  

Like fans, opening two or more windows in a room or house will help circulate air, and at night can bring in the cooler outside air to replace the overheated indoor air. 

4   Become a Fan of Ceiling Fans

Use ceiling fans, especially on your home's upper levels. Heat rises, as you know. 

Sure, they may be low-tech, but they work wonders. Fans can make you feel six or seven degrees cooler via the wind-chill effect. 

Fans don't actually cool the air; they make it feel cooler by moving it, pulling body heat away from your skin. 

Make sure your ceiling fan has angled blades and that the air is pushed downward at you.

A ceiling fan can cut back on air conditioning needs, saving up to 40 percent on electricity. 

5   Weather Strip Windows and Doors

Poorly sealed windows leak air, which makes your air conditioning system work harder. Caulking leaks or cracks and weather stripping windows will prevent cool air from escaping, and prevent hot air from coming inside. 

Windows aren't the only part of your home that can leak air. Attics, walls, and crawl spaces lose air as well. Professionally insulating your home is one of the best ways to increase energy efficiency. 

6   Replace Air Filters Seasonally

Air filters keep your air conditioner running at peak efficiency by preventing dust from blocking vents. If the filters are dirty, your system will have to work harder to circulate air.

Replace your filters at least every few months, and possibly more often if you have pets or kids. Air filters are cheap and easy to replace by yourself. Clearing a clogged AC unit filter can save 5 to 15 percent in energy use, and will help the unit work better.

If your air conditioner is more than 10 years old, you can cut your energy costs in half by swapping your older air conditioner for a newer, more efficient unit.

Look for a high energy efficiency ratio, or EER, or an Energy Star-qualified unit. Higher EER ratings indicate a more efficient air conditioner. Energy Star is a system used by the U.S. government to designate energy-efficient products. 

7   Reduce Indoor Heat by Cooking Outdoors

Don't cook on the stovetop or use your oven when the outdoor temperature exceeds the temperature inside your home.

You can reduce indoor heat by cooking in the microwave, firing up the outdoor grill, or eating cooler foods, such as salads and fruit. If you must bake lasagna for tomorrow's potluck, do it in the evening.

By simple avoidance, you'll save money on electricity - and what it would cost to make the AC work overtime. 

8   Throw Heat Some Shade

Sunlight streaming in through windows raises the temperature inside your home. By blocking the sunlight, you can calm that effect. Using trees or shrubs to shade your air conditioner can increase its efficiency by up to 10 percent, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

9   Let Humidity Dictate Cooling Settings

Put the air-conditioner fan speed on high, except on very humid days, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

On humid days, use the low fan speed. The slower air movement through the air conditioning equipment removes more moisture from the air, improving comfort in your home. 

10   Upgrade Windows

If your home has older windows, they might not be energy efficient. You can cut the costs of cooling your home by installing new energy-efficient windows. Some upfront cost is involved, but you'll make it up in the long run with lower energy bills. 

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