Home heating and/or cooling, depending on where you live, are your largest home energy consumption activities. Here in Houston, Texas it is certainly home cooling. Here is our extensive list of tips to greatly reduce you energy consumption via central air conditioning. You may not be able to use all these tips but you could certainly employ a number of them.
A house that is slightly cooler than the outside feels far more comfortable than you might think. Relative temperatures can go a long way. So when it’s 100 degrees outside there is no need to try to create a 60 degree environment inside. 77 or 78 degrees Fahrenheit is only slightly above ideal room temperature and can be plenty comfortable when it’s far hotter outside. Your AC system will not need to work as hard to maintain that kind of temperature.
- Use Digital Thermostats – they are more accurate and can be programmable to set different temperatures for certain times of the day.
- Dial down your thermometer a couple degrees at night – cooler evening temps make for a better sleeping environment and it easier for your system to bring temperatures down a bit more in the cool night air.
- Dial it up a few more degrees for times of the day when there is usually nobody home. A cold house does not keep you cool if you’re not there.
- Don’t position heat-producing appliances, such as televisions or lamps, near the thermostat. The added heat can fool your thermostat, causing the unit to run longer than necessary.
Cranking your Thermostat Way Down DOES NOT Speed Up How Fast your House Cools Down!!
Don’t do this. It does not work. AC units only have two settings – off and on. When your thermostat detects your house has warmed too far past your setting the AC unit kicks in and will run until the thermostat detects the house has cooled enough. Cranking it farther than usual means it just runs the same but probably for longer since you’ll have a tendency to forget to turn it back up, meaning you’ve let it run too long and consumed more energy than you needed too.
Central Air Conditioning Maintenance
The central AC unit is the largest energy draw. Old and poorly maintained equipment draws far more energy.
- Replace old air conditioners with a modern high efficiency Energy Star unit – they use a lot less energy (up to 40%)
- Choose the right size air conditioner – too small a unit will struggle to keep up and run constantly, too large a unit will cool your home too fast and frequently be turning off and on while not doing enough to reduce humidity.
- Check the air filters on your AC system – replace them on schedule. Dirty and clogged filters cause the system to work harder, using more energy.
- Schedule a yearly maintenance with your HVAC contractor to ensure your units are running at peak efficiency.
- Keep your air conditioner out of the sun – install on shady side of house or at least have it protected by shrubs or a partial wall or fence
Reduce Solar Heat Inputs
The sun will heat any object it shines upon and that includes the inside of your home. These tips will help reduce solar heating as well as save your flooring and furniture from fading.
- Close curtains on windows facing the sun
- Install thermal liners on your curtains – they reflect more of the heat back out the window
- Install window tinting on sun facing windows – residential tint film is designed to cut UV rays substantially
- Plant trees and shrubs around your house – their shade will help keep the house cooler
- Paint your house a lighter color – darker colors absorb solar energy, lighter colors reflect it away
- Make sure your attic is properly ventilated, your roof absorbs a lot of heat. Vents in the eaves allows hot air to escape. Consider adding a ridge vent or attic fan.
Reduce Other Internal Heat Gains
Besides the sun there are many things and activities around the home that produce heat.
- Turn off pilot lights on gas furnaces and fire places – you don’t need them during the summer
- Cook outside – It’s summer, enjoy the BBQ as much as possible on hot days
- Install compact florescent bulbs, they produce a lot less heat than incandescent bulbs
- Turn off appliances – even unplug them. Many TV’s, CD players, satellite TV receivers, stereos, cell phone chargers and other electronic devices draw power and give off heat even when turned off.
- Keep your fridge and freezer full – more food in your fridge and freezer means it won’t warm up as fast when the door is open. Also all that thermal mass stays cooler longer and the fridge does not have to work as hard to keep it cool. When the cooling system is running on your fridge it is producing warm air in your home.
- Take shorter showers and vent off the warm moist air – open a window while showering.
- Reduce clothing dryer use – hang clothing outside if you can. Don’t use the dryer during peak daytime temperatures, instead use it early morning or in the evening. And keep that lint trap clean!
- Don’t use the dryer setting on your dishwasher. Instead open the door and let them air dry.
Divide your House into Zones
Large buildings employ zoning to more efficiently manage cooling and heating. You can do the same in your home. Most modern central air systems will employ automated zone control systems. Some home systems may employ two or three different central ac units each cooling a single floor of the house. If your system does not have these sorts of zone controls built in you can try these tips.
- Have your HVAC contractor install zone dampers into your air duct system.
- Close off empty and unused rooms – close doors, windows, curtains and vents. There is no need to cool this space as much as the rest of your home.
- If your central AC uses separate thermostats for different floors (or zones) of your house, adjust temperatures according to usage patterns in those parts of your house.
- Use small room AC units in your more lived in areas (living room, bedroom). You can let the rest of the house remain a few degrees warmer, reducing central a/c use which can offset the costs of the extra unit.
Keep the Air Flowing
- Use fans – they circulate the air around and moving air help your bodies natural air conditioning (evapo-transpiration) work better.
- Turn fans off when you’re not in the room. Moving air cools your skin, moving air with no skin nearby cools nothing, it just eats electricity, and the fans’ motor is producing a little bit of heat.
- Re-Arrange your furniture – make sure chairs and sofa’s are not blocking air flow from your HVAC vents.
Reduce Humidity in your Home
Ridding your house of excess humidity will help make your family feel more comfortable. You may even be able to set your air conditioner above 78 degrees when using a dehumidifier combined with fans. Your body can stand a couple extra degrees if the air is drier and moving around.
- Use a dehumidifier to take water out of the air- turn it on when the temperature rises.
- As mentioned above (reduce internal heat gains), minimize showers, baths and boiling water while cooking to reduce humidity inputs into your home.
Insulate and Plug Air Leaks Around your Home
Trap cold air inside as much as possible. Letting it leak outdoors mean you have to cool more of it to replace those cold air losses.
- Weather-strip, seal, and caulk leaky doors and windows and install foam gaskets behind outlet covers.
- Seal air ducts – leaky ducts mean you push less cool air to where you need it. Have your AC contractor test and seal your duct work.
- Increase attic insulation – insulate your attic to at least R-30.
- Use kitchen and bathroom exhaust fans sparingly – you’re pumping out your cool air.
Watch Out for the “Rebound Effect”
If you follow many of the tips in this article you will certainly reduce your energy consumption and save money. Depending on where you live and the size of your home those savings could be hundreds or even thousands of dollars per year. A nice chunk of change for most anybody. Be careful though not to simply use the money you save to buy more energy consuming devices or turn your AC down a few degrees thinking you can now be cooler while spending the same as you did before. In energy and conservation economics this is known as the rebound effect.
Got any more energy saving tips related to air conditioner usage? Leave them in the comments below.