Content starts here


Reduce Air Conditioning Costs, Electric Bills

My grandfather would have loved the heat wave we're having, if for no other reason than it would give him cause to unleash his endless arsenal of "It's hotter than..." sayings.

You know, "It's hotter than a firecracker lit on both ends." Or, "It's hotter than the devil dancing in frying pan." Or even, "hotter than a billy goat in pepper patch," which I guess would be pretty hot, although admittedly some of Gramps' sayings translated better than others between generations.

See also: Summer Cooling Costs and Older Households

I recently wrote about ways to stay cool - and save money - without cranking up the air conditioning, but with record setting heat engulfing much of the U.S., occasionally even a cheapskate needs to breakdown and turn on the AC. When you do resort to air conditioning, you can reduce operating costs by following these simple tips:

  • Shade your condenser or window unit if at all possible, perhaps with an overhead awning or shade tree, and that alone could reduce energy consumption by as much as 10 percent.  At the same time, don't restrict airflow directly around the unit with shrubs, debris, enclosures, etc., as that increases electricity use.
  • Clean or replace your air conditioner's filter once a month when it's in use. You can buy "permanent filters" at home improvement stores that can easily be cleaned with a garden hose and reused. For whole house units, it pays to have a service professional clean and tune up your equipment at the start of the cooling season.
  • Install programmable thermostats to control whole house air conditioners or simple automatic plugin timers to turn window units on and off automatically based on your schedule. Cool only those spaces you're using, when you're using them, by closing off rooms when not in use and/or closing the registers.
  • For whole house AC, inspect the ductwork carefully and seal any seams or gaps (with "duct tape," of course). In older homes, 20 percent or more of the cold air could be escaping through leaky ductwork before it reaches the intended living space. Installing weather stripping and caulking gaps around windows and doors can save you big time on both cooling and heating costs.
  • Consider replacing older air conditioners with more energy efficient models. Air conditioners available today (look for those with an "Energy Star" certification) typically use 30 - 50 percent less energy than those manufactured in the 1990's, so the cost of investing in new equipment can often be recouped relatively quickly in savings on your electric bills.

Here's wishing you an enjoyable summer, even though it's hotter out there than a preacher man standing in the devil's kitchen... or was he standing in a pepper patch?

* Tell me what's your favorite "hotter than" saying?. Put it in the comment field below.

Photo by christianedillman via Flickr Creative Commons.

Search AARP Blogs