AC Bills: How To Stay Cool While Saving Money

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The long, cold winter here in the U.S. is finally giving way to spring sunshine and warmer temperatures. A hot summer will be rolling in soon enough though, which can lead to sizable energy bills for folks in many parts of the country.

While you can’t control the weather, you can employ some relatively simple strategies to save money on air conditioning while still keeping cool.

Install Window Coverings

The sun is a sneaky form of energy — even a little bit peeking through windows and blinds can heat up your interiors quickly in the warmer months. According to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), about 76% of sunlight coming through your typical double-pane windows turns into heat that can easily get trapped and make your home into an oven.

Thus, the more you can block out that toasty sun, the better chance you have of keeping temps down indoors. Don’t just opt for any coverings either; look into energy efficient coverings, which can also keep down the glare from windows.

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Create Outdoor Shade

Just as helpful as creating indoor shade is creating outdoor shade, according to Bob Vila’s website. By putting up outdoor shade elements, such as awnings, trellises, and even plants that can block your home from the sun, the less radiant heat will make its way indoors. As a bonus, it might also create a lovely outdoor ambiance for leisure and entertaining.

Utilize ‘The Stack Effect’

If you happen to live in a two-story home, you have the advantage of what Bob Vila’s website refers to as “the stack effect.” To create this effect, at night you would open the windows on your upper and lower floors to let warm air out upstairs, and cooler air to come in at the lower levels. You’ll probably want to sleep and spend as much time in those lower levels as possible.

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Though it might seem strange, they recommend you keep windows closed during the day to hold onto the lower, cooler temperature.

Create Cross Ventilation

If you don’t have AC or you want to avoid using it, you can also take advantage of a very low-tech effect known as cross ventilation. To achieve it, you can put a big box fan in front of a window with the blower side facing in, and another fan at an opposite window across the room, with the blower side facing outward. This pushes away the hotter air inside, and can keep temps cooler.

Plug Duct Leaks and Other Leaks

Air has a sneaky way of getting in and out of your house in a number of small places you might not ever think to check. However, by checking and then plugging, caulking or wrapping leaks, you can reduce the amount of air getting in or out — and lower your energy bill.

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You can pay to have an energy audit, or do it yourself, by holding a candle to areas such as window seals, doors and ducts. Other places that commonly leak air include light fixtures, fireplaces, attics, fans, garage walls, floors and more.

Update and Maintain Your Cooling System

Saving money on energy while keeping cool doesn’t mean never using your AC. But if you are going to use it, you want to make sure it is regularly maintained so that it is running at its optimal settings and not working overtime.

One tip the DOE offers is to not put heat-producing lamps, TVs or other big appliances near your air conditioner, because it may sense the heat and operate longer than you need. Additionally, remember to vacuum out the air intake vents so that dust isn’t blocking airflow.

Invest in a Smart Thermostat

If trying to stay on top of your AC controls is too complex because of your schedule or other reasons, consider investing in a smart thermostat. According to The Smart Cave, smart thermostats can save up to 15% on AC costs, and an overall 23% on energy bills.

Smart thermostats can be programmed to adjust the temperature according to time of day, shut it off when you’re not home, and implement several other energy saving strategies.

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