Now that it is getting into the heart of summer, trying to keep your house and yourself cool is very important. If you live in a southern state like my husband and I do, it is even more important–and more expensive. During peek daylight hours, the temperature on the second floor of our house can be in the eighties if our central AC unit is not running.
The high price of fuel combined with above average temperatures this summer has caused our AC unit to work overtime in order to keep our house cool. As a result our electric bill has gone through the roof.
Here are a few tips that we have learned over the years to help make our AC unit run more efficiently and cut down on our electrical costs. Most of these are things that you can do yourself for minimal cost, especially if you have a husband who is as handy around the house as mine is.
1. Keep your thermostat set between 74-76 degrees. There is no need to keep the temperature in your house at 70 degrees. Each degree higher that the thermostat is set can save on cooling costs.
2. If you have ceiling fans, turn them on. They keep the air in the house circulating, which will help to keep it cool. Make sure the fan is spinning in the correct direction. All ceiling fans spin in both directions. One way will help cool the house by forcing cold air down and the other direction will help heat the house by forcing hot air down. Check the instruction manual on your ceiling fans; they will have directions on the proper settings.
3. If you have one of those old style thermostats, change it out to a digital one. Digital thermostats are much more accurate at reading the temperature. More importantly, most digital thermostats are programmable. Therefore, when your house is usually empty, the thermostat can be programmed to a higher temp such as 78 degrees. About one hour before anyone gets home, the temp can be programmed to 75 degrees so that the house is nice and cool when everyone arrives home.
4. Check all of the windows and doors in the house to make sure that they are sealed tight. If they are not sealed properly, and air is flowing through them, then you are letting cool air from the house out and hot air in. To fix this problem, purchase some weather stripping, which any hardware store will carry, and seal up the gaps around the windows and doors.
My husband and I took this one step farther. In upstate New York, where we are both from, preparing your house for winter, which is more commonly know as “winterizing,” is very common. One method that is used is to place a thin plastic film over windows. The film is sold up north in insulation kits that come with a large sheet of the plastic film and double-sided tape. We have not seen these types of insulation kits sold here in Florida, but we purchased a couple the last time we were in upstate NY. If you don’t feel like making a trip up north, I am sure that they can be purchased on-line. The large sheet of plastic can be cut down to cover several windows and secured around the window frame with the double sided tape. A hair dryer is used to shrink down the film and get all of the wrinkles out of it. When finished you will have a clear air tight seal over your windows that will help keep the cool air in and the hot air out.
5. Check the AC unit itself to ensure that it is running efficiently. Vacuum out the drainage pipes using a wet-dry vac. This will make sure that are free of any clogs. Check the temperature of the air being forced out by the AC unit. This can be easily done. There are thermometers designed specifically to measure the air temperature coming out of the AC unit. These thermometers can be purchased at almost any hardware store.
The thermometer is inserted into the duct work right near the AC unit, or more specifically the air handler and it will measure the air temperature. It should be about 55 degrees. If it is not, you may have to have an air conditioner service come out and check the Freon level.
An Often overlooked but extremely important aspect to how efficient your AC unit is work is the duct work. While the unit is running check the duct work for any holes or cracks. If your AC unit is in the attic like ours is, the duct work is easily accessible. If there are any holes or cracks in the ducts, your AC unit is wasting a lot of energy cooling your attic, which can be very costly. Any holes or gaps in the duct work can easily be sealed with duct tape or duct mastic, which is a sealant and is more air tight than duct tape. This simple but often overlooked repair could be the one that has the largest effect on the efficiency of your AC unit and could save you quite a bit of money on your electric bill.
Doing all of these things is not going to cut your cooling bill in half, but they will help to make your AC unit run more efficiently. Anything that can be done to save a few dollars here or there over the long run is always a good thing.