Air conditioners start humming as soon as the weather gets hot delivering lower indoor temperatures and an escape from both heat and humidity. But while a cool home can be a welcome refuge from sultry temperatures, many homeowners pay a steep price for the comfort. In fact, Americans spend as much as half their energy bills to cool their homes, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
To help homeowners beat the heat and lower air conditioning costs, the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities (BPU) offers the following energy-saving tips to help you stay cool in summer:
Save with ENERGY STAR®: The EPA labels the most efficient central air conditioning systems with the ENERGY STAR. These systems use up to 25 percent less energy than a standard new model. However, if your current a air conditioner is more than 10 years old, a new ENERGY STAR qualified air conditioner will use up to 40 percent less energy than the old model.
Air Conditioner Size Matters: With air conditioners, bigger isn't always better. An over-sized unit will cycle on and off more frequently. Short cycling reduces an air conditioning system's life, and a short cycling system will not reduce humidity effectively. An undersized air conditioner can reduce the efficiency of air distribution and accelerate wear on system components, leading to premature failure.
So what's the best way to properly size an air conditioning system to maintain lower air conditioning costs? Measuring the size of the house and the number and size of the windows, especially windows facing south and west, will help identify an air conditioning system that can effectively deal with the heat that a home gains in the summer. Certified Home Performance with ENERGY STAR contractors can assist you with this assessment.
Maintain Cooling Systems Regularly: A properly maintained air conditioner prevents future problems, added expenses, and lowers air conditioning costs. Home Performance with ENERGY STAR contractors who are trained cooling specialists can perform annual pre-season check-ups to ensure that a central air conditioning system is running as efficiently as possible. They will check thermostat settings, lubricate all moving parts, inspect the condensate drain, check system controls for safety, clean condenser coils, check refrigerant pressures, and clean and adjust blower components for proper system airflow. Contractors will also show homeowners how to inspect, clean, and change air filters monthly. A dirty filter causes higher energy costs and can damage equipment. Filters in room air conditioners should also be changed monthly.
Keep Air Conditioners in the Shade: Plant trees or shrubs to shade air conditioning units but be careful not to block its airflow. An air conditioner operating in the shade uses as much as 10 percent less electricity than the same one operating in the sun.
Use the Air Conditioner Wisely: A home doesn't need to be chilled all day, day in and day out, to be comfortable in the summer. Save energy and money by using an ENERGY STAR qualified programmable thermostat. The thermostat allows homeowners to preset temperatures to automatically adjust to a more comfortable temperature when they are home. While away, homeowners can also block out heat by keeping blinds or curtains closed during the day.
Use Ceiling Fans: Using ENERGY STAR qualified ceiling fans can help lower cooling costs without greatly increasing electricity use. Ceiling fans improve airflow and create pleasant breezes.
Test your home: Making energy efficient improvements can help shrink energy bills year round. Home Performance with ENERGY STAR, a national program from the U.S. EPA and U.S. DOE, offers a comprehensive, whole-house approach to improving energy efficiency and comfort at home, while helping to protect the environment. With Home Performance with ENERGY STAR, any size or style home can be improved to reduce energy costs up to 30 percent. A Home Performance with ENERGY STAR contractor will perform a comprehensive home assessment to test the performance of any home with respect to energy efficiency, comfort, health and safety. The contractor will identify opportunities for improving a home's efficiency and provide the estimated cost of making the improvements. The program even offers low-interest financing to help pay for the recommended work.
By following these tips, you can run your air conditioner more efficiently, thus lowering costs while remaining cool and comfortable in your own home.