If you're the thrifty type and you like to keep your energy bills low, you're probably aware that shutting off your air conditioner is the quickest way to a lower energy bill. An electric central AC unit consumes around 15,000 watts and costs around $1.50 per hour – that's 11,000 watts and $1.10 more expensive than the next most costly appliance, the water heater. And you're probably familiar with strategies for keeping cool without your central AC. But what happens when it's just too hot to leave the air conditioner off? 2016 is well on its way to being the hottest year on record, and even though summer is coming to an end, many parts of the country are still dealing with a heat index in the triple digits. When there's just no way to get comfortable without turning your air conditioner on, you need to find new ways to keep your energy bills under control. Take a look at some tips that can help.
Close The Lower Level Vents
You probably remember learning that hot air rises and cold air sinks to the ground. This is often mentioned when discussing fire safety – if you're trapped in a burning building, getting as close to the floor as possible will help you breath while you find your way out. However, understanding the behavior of hot and cold air and knowing how to apply it can also help you cool your house for less.
All that you have to do is close the air conditioner vents that are in the basement (and the ground floor if you spend most of your time upstairs). Leave the vents open on the upper floors. This directs the cold air that the AC is putting out to the part of the house that you're actually using, and you pay only to cool the floors with the open vents. The cold air sinks and will find its way down to the lower floors on its own, cooling them as it goes. This way, you stay comfortable, since the vents are open in the part of the house that you're using. Your first floor or basement may not be as cool as the top floor, but they won't be unbearably hot, either.
Keep The Lights Low
Dimming or turning off lights that you don't need during the day can definitely help you keep your energy bills down, especially if you still use incandescent bulbs that tend to generate heat. On the other hand, if you've made the switch to LED or CFL light bulbs, turning off the lights will make less of a difference – these bulbs are considerably more efficient and don't generate heat. However, you still have to worry about light heating up your house – the light from the windows.
Something as simple as closing the curtains can have a surprising effect on your energy bill. The light coming in through the windows comes with a lot of heat, and your air conditioner has to work that much harder to reach the temperature you set. Close the curtains, and your air conditioner no longer has to fight against the heat coming through the window. You can magnify the effect with heavy drapes or thermal curtains that act as insulating material, blocking considerably more heat than thin curtains.
Inspect Your Ducts
Speaking of insulating material, it's a good idea to check and see if your air conditioner ducts have enough insulation. Keep in mind that central air conditioning ducts are often run through an attic or crawl space. These spaces tend to be the hottest spots in the home, partly because they're usually not air conditioned zones, and partly because of that rising heat effect. So, if your ducts aren't well-insulated, they're going to be hot, which means that the air flowing through them will get warmed up before it ever makes it out of the vents to where you are. Once again, this means your air conditioner will have to work that much harder to cool off your home, and it will cost you that much more.
You can insulate the ducts yourself by purchasing duct wrap insulation from a home improvement store. Look for duct wrap that has an R-value of 8 for attic ducts. Cut the insulation to size according to the manufacturer's specifications, clip it with duct insulation speed clips, and use pressure sensitive duct insulation tape to seal it. Make sure that when you put the duct wrap on the duct, the vapor barrier backing is facing out.
One more thing that can help is having your air conditioner inspected by an AC professional, such as United Heating Cooling and Plumbing Inc, and having any needed maintenance done. The better your air conditioner is working, the more efficient it will be, and the less money it will cost you.Share
17 August 2016
As a DIY enthusiast, I started doing everything I could to make my household appliances more effective then ever before. I insulated my attic, worked on cleaning the vents around my kitchen appliances, and eventually turned my attention to my air conditioner and furnace. Unfortunately, the process of taking care of my HVAC system was more intense than I had originally anticipated. I realized that I needed to read about air conditioners and furnaces before I started tinkering around. I made this blog to showcase all kinds of different articles that talk about HVAC, so that you can become a more informed homeowner.