Not long ago, during a routine check over my household bills, I noticed that air conditioning is costing me quite a lot of money, month-to-month.
I knew it didn’t need to and set about finding the best ways to save money on air conditioning. It is great to be able to help readers save money whenever I can, so, in this article, I’m sharing these tips and findings.
Some of the statistics about air conditioning usage are shocking. For instance, on average, cooling your home accounts for 6% of household bills. And this may be a conservative estimate!
As well as the impact on your bank balance, it is important to think about using less power for environmental reasons and even to prevent power outages, which have been a problem in Southern California in times of high energy consumption.
Let's explorer how you can reduce your AC bills this summer.
We will talk about financial aide available to pay cooling bills, how you can use fans to reduce the AC bill, what to insulate in your house and how to do energy audit, how to maintain your AC properly, and how to cool yourself that can also result in using less AC and thus having lower bills!
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Check for Financial Aid
Many people don’t know about the financial aid opportunities out there to help them save money when it comes to air conditioning.
Weatherization Assistance Program
If you’re looking to tackle both your heating and cooling costs, you may be eligible for funding through the Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP), created by the Department of Energy.
This program was designed to help those who are struggling financially, as well as elderly and disabled people, to boost the efficiency of their homes and keep safe during extreme and uncomfortable weather.
Information on the program can be found here, where you will see that the average annual savings is $283. To find the contact in your state, head to the directory on their site, where you can search by area.
Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program
There are other federal funds you can tap into to save money. For instance, the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) can provide help to those in need, when it comes to paying bills or even making repairs.
This program is designed for people facing poverty.
To qualify, your income needs to be 60% or less of the median income for the state in which you live. In addition, grantees must meet “no less than 110 percent of the FPG (Federal Poverty Guidelines)" as described by the Target Population section of the fact sheet.
Other Assistance and Grants
There are also religious and charitable organizations who have funds for one-off situations where you find yourself needing extra money, for instance, an unexpected bill.
Modest Needs is one such organization that can provide grants of up to $1,000, often for repairs. If you have a condition or a reason why it is essential that your air conditioning issues are sorted, Modest Needs may be able to help, at least as a one-time solution.
Another organization is Rebuilding Together. It's a charity that works with low-income families and people caring for disabled family members. They may be able to help with air conditioning repairs. Their motto is “safe homes and communities for everyone”.
It is vital that you reach out to local charities if you find yourself in dire need of help. There are some stories out there of people finding help where they didn’t expect it. For example, this family was helped by the Salvation Army.
Charitable organizations know that extreme heat can be life-threatening to those who are vulnerable. If your family has elderly or disabled members, reach out and see what support there may be for their situation.
Inside the House
How Fans Help Cool Down the House
Fans may be seen as the ‘old fashioned’ way to cool your home, compared to high-tech air conditioning units, but they can still be very effective.
Fans don’t work in the way many people think they do and there are common misconceptions. Fans don’t actually impact the temperature of your room. Instead, they move the air in the room.
This air circulation increases evaporation of moisture from your body and, in turn, gives you the sensation of feeling cooler. Fans can be especially helpful in humid conditions.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends another way to use a fan that many people do not think of.
They suggest to use the fan to draw cooler air from outside into the room, especially in the evening. This is published as a part of their guidelines on avoiding illness related to heat.
There is quite a lot to understand regarding fans.
Different fan types and fan positions are covered in this guide to choosing a fan for a room, which can help you make the right choice for the environment you live in and your needs. The guide can also help you get the most out of your fan.
Also, read this article from Lasko "Use Fans with Air Conditioning to Boost the Cooling Effect" for more insights.
If you are concerned about your utility bills while running a fan, check out our post about how much electricity a fan uses to understand how it affects your electricity consumption.
How to Cool With Window Fans
Window fans are a very popular way to cool your home in an extremely economical way.
When using a window fan, you are simply using the air outside your home to create a breeze and a more comfortable feeling in your living room or bedroom.
Window fans and exhaust fans are explained in some detail in this handy guide issued by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory of the U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. The guide also mentions that many of the top window fans out there are reversible. This means that you can set them to either draw cool air in or pull hot air out of a room.
To find a fan with these capabilities, explore this list of the best window fans, which shows what you can expect from a top window fan model and how it can be installed in your home.
Energy.gov guidelines also cover how to cool with a variety of fans, including window fans.
You can also use a box fan the same way you would use a window fan. To make sure the box fan stays in place inside the window, check the video by Matt from Home Farm Ideas.
If you need to cool a big area and you only have box fans, here's a neat trick I found on Pinterest. Buy 4 box fans, 6 wooden planks, and a few screws and create a big DIY fan:
How to Cool With Tower Fans
Tower fans are a very popular method people use to cool their homes and other buildings. They are economical and can be a good way to save on air conditioning.
The economizing features of this type of fan are boosted by the fact that many tower fans, especially the best ones on the market, offer some form of timer.
This means that, for instance, if you are using the fan to help you to fall asleep at night, but only need it for a couple of hours until the temperature drops, you can set it to turn off automatically. Naturally, this means a far lower use of electricity than if the fan was running all night long.
Tower fans are also a good alternative to ceiling fans.
Ceiling fans are great for saving space in the room, but if you don’t already have one installed, it can be expensive to install one. A tower fan will do a similar job, as it will rotate and increase the airflow in the whole room, even if it is a larger room.
Tower fans vary a lot in price and there are some elite tower fan brands in the marketplace, such as Dyson. The top options are all explored here.
How to Cool With Ceiling Fans
Ceiling fans are another method recommended by the official energy.gov site.
Advantages of using ceiling fans
There is no denying the fact that these fans are effective.
Downsides of using ceiling fans
But, ceiling fans can be a hit and miss option.
Ensure that you only install a ceiling fan in a room where it is likely to be used a lot.
It is a waste to install one in an unoccupied room. Look at the rooms where you spend the most time, which is probably your bedroom and living room.
Smart ceiling fans
If you wish to go down the modern route, there are smart fans, which can be used via an app. The app will allow you to turn it on and off remotely, control speed without having to reach up to the fan, and even set a timer.
By the way, you don't even need to buy a smart fan.
You can convert your regular ceiling fan into a smart one by using a special device called BOND . The only requirements for using it are that your ceiling fan is remote-controlled and you have WiFi at home.
Check out this cool video review of BOND by HomeAutomationX below.
CHECK IT OUT HERE ON AMAZON
How to Cool with Exhaust Fans
An exhaust fan is often used to extract the air from a room, draw out humidity, and avoid condensation. They are popular in kitchens and bathrooms.
Often, an exhaust fan can also be a good way to cool the house, by drawing out hot air. This is especially true if your home creates a lot of heat, for example, if you use a lot of electronics that give off extra heat.
Many people opt to use an exhaust fan as a window fan. As briefly stated already, some of these can be used either to draw air out of a room, or draw cooler air in from the outside.
You can also use an exhaust fan to make a room to room ventilation fan that can help to evenly distribute the temperature throughout the room. Dan from shopChimeney.com shows us how do it in the video below.
How to Cool with Whole-House Fans
Whole-house fans are a common alternative to air conditioners, due to the fact that they cover a large area. They are also recommended by the energy.gov site, as they are cheaper to buy and run.
Whole-house fans use the outdoor air from windows to improve the airflow in a home, to create up to 60 different air changes per hour, if done correctly.
How Whole-House Fans Work
Whole-house fans work by pulling air in from outside through your existing windows, as well as through the attic and roof. As well as increasing airflow, this guide explains how whole-house fans can be a good way to ventilate areas that otherwise wouldn’t be ventilated, such as the attic.
The fact that whole-house fans draw in air from the windows means that to control them, you can simply close some windows.
Check out this video by quietcoolfan.com that briefly explains how a whole-house fan works.
Using Whole-House Fans
To get the most out of one of these fans, you may have to do other things to increase the circulation of air.
Many people twin them with ceiling fans, for instance. This can increase airflow and it allows for fresh air to enter your home more regularly.
Pros of Whole-House Fans
Drawbacks of Whole-House Fans
Whole-house fans aren’t always the ideal solution and while they have some positive points, there are negatives, too.
Use Energy STAR-Certified Ventilation Fans
If you’re using any sort of ventilation fan, you should always be on the lookout for an Energy STAR rating.
This will be advertised by the manufacturer, as it is a big deal!
If a ventilation fan has this rating, it means that it has been tested on its performance when it comes to energy consumption. It means it is more efficient, better for the environment, and cheaper to run, as compared to competing products without the rating.
A ventilation fan with an Energy STAR rating also means that it produces less noise, performs better, and has a longer lifespan than other fans.
Insulate and Weatherize
Insulating is a term we often associate with keeping heat in, but it also generally makes your home’s temperature far easier to control, whether that means warmer in the winter or cooler in the summer.
Knowing where to insulate is made far easier by this guide by energy.gov. Here, I provided an infographic based on the guide.
Did you know that 30% of all heat in a home is absorbed up into the roof, normally into your attic? This means you should have proper ventilation. As explored on thebalance.com, ridge vents, whole-house fans, and even attic fans can keep down the costs of cooling your home.
Air may also be leaking out of your home in places you didn’t think of.
Indoor to outdoor connections
Spaces where plumbing, electrical, and vents that connect from indoors to outdoors can make holes in the wall.
This means that air can be escaping, making it tough to control the heat. Filling these gaps in with caulk will give you much more control.
If you have ducting, often used where there is an air conditioner, it may be costing you a big chunk of the money you are spending on cooling your home.
Especially with older AC units, ducting can have looser joints or other cracks and gaps where the cool air can escape, leading to higher bills. Minimizing these losses can help you to save money on air conditioning.
Windows and doors
Windows and doors are other areas where air can sneak through and make it is tougher for your AC to cool economically. If you can, weatherstrip around any doors and windows you suspect of causing these issues.
If you have older windows and doors, you may even think about replacing them. This can cost a bit up front, but may save you money on both cooling and heating, in the long term.
Take Extra Care of the Windows
Even if you’re using an air conditioner, it can still be useful to make the most of your windows. Many of us don’t even use them in the most effective ways.
You should use solar screens, these are mesh-style screens that can block out around 70% of the heat created by solar energy at the window and stop it from entering the house. This is best on windows which face either east or west. A similar effect can be achieved with a reflective tint, which can also keep windows cooler.
Blinds and curtains can actually keep the heat gain down by almost half. If you close your blinds and block out the sun, it can stop a lot of heat from entering your home.
Assuming you live somewhere with average temperatures, you probably don’t need to have your aircon on 24 hours a day. Instead, your best bet is to open your windows at night and turn the AC unit off. In the morning, when it starts to get hotter, draw the curtains or blinds and turn the air conditioning back on.
Adjust AC Settings
Advice from the Department of Energy says that, while you are home, a temperature of 78 degrees should be comfortable.
If you need to go out, raising it to 85F while you are away can save a lot of energy. It can result in as much as a 15% saving on your energy bill. All you need to do is raise the thermostat once you leave.
Don’t Add Extra Heat
Modern homes can sometimes make it easy to add extra heat to the equation. Try to avoid this.
The following tips can help to stop your air conditioner from working harder than it needs to:
Pay Attention to Humidity
Keeping a good level of humidity in the room is key to comfort.
In places where humidity is already high, an air conditioner may well remove some of this moisture and cool the room down. Pairing it with a dehumidifier can help increase the effects.
Monitor the humidity and change the fan speed based on how humid it is in the room. Slow air is better at removing moisture.
Paradoxically, if it is too dry in the air, adding moisture to the air can keep you much more comfortable.
It is all about finding the correct level. If you need to add moisture, a swamp cooler or humidifier can sometimes mean your air conditioner doesn’t have to work as hard to get you to a comfortable temperature.
Use Thermostats Smartly
In this age of the modern home, a smart thermostat is basically a must. The best thermostats allow far more control and insight into the temperature of your home.
It is vital to put your thermostat in the right place, too.
A thermostat on a wall close to a hot window can sometimes mean that it will kick in too frequently, thinking the room is warmer than it is. Follow this guide to placing your thermostat.
Keep AC Vents Clear and Clean
One of the easiest ways to clean your vents is to vacuum them, to clear away any dust and debris. This can help keep the airflow clean and steady.
Make sure your cooled air isn’t obstructed.
Ensure that furniture, curtains, or any other items in the way of the vent are moved, so that the full effect of the vent is felt. You don’t want to spend all that money just to only cool the back of your couch!
You can buy plastic vent additions , which help direct the cool air and ensure it is circulated.
CHECK IT OUT HERE ON AMAZON
Change Your Placement in the House
As you probably know, heat rises.
This means that it is easier to keep the temperature low downstairs. It also means you can potentially leave your thermostat at a higher temperature during the day and then lower it at night, if you are going upstairs to bed.
Some people move to the basement where it is naturally cooler, just as long as you don’t open any basement windows when it is humid outdoors and let all that humidity in.
Cooling just one room with a window AC unit costs significantly less than cooling your whole house. This means that one of the best ways to save money is to stay in one room. You can shut off cooling ducts in any room you don’t spend time in.
Cool Your Body
Cooling yourself first may still be the most effective and easy ways to reach a comfortable, healthy temperature.
Try cooling yourself with cold water. Here some ways that can be effective to keep your body temperature down:
Outside of the House
Take Care of Your AC Condenser
In order to adequately cool your home, your AC unit’s condenser should be in a shaded area of your yard, so that it can efficiently dispose of the hot air it is drawing out of your house.
Ensure that you don’t have anything in the way of the unit, as this can lead to the obstruction of the airflow. All plants and items in your yard should be at least 2-3 feet from the unit, so as not to disturb the flow.
This full guide from Husky Air shows how you can landscape in a way that is suitable for your air conditioner.
Be sure not to neglect your air conditioner coil, either, as stated in this guide from John Moore Services, as this can lead to extra money spent on your utility bill.
Maximize Outside Shade
There are ways you can make your outdoor areas more shady to block out some of the sun’s heat on your home. Estimates say that this can lower your cooling costs by between 15 and 50%, especially if your home is west or south facing.
According to energy.gov, tree shade can make your neighborhood 3-6 degrees cooler.
Don’t use materials in your landscaping that might radiate heat. If possible, things like rock, cement, and asphalt should be kept away from the south and west-facing sides of your home, especially if it is not shaded. This is one of the tips on Eartheasy’s guide to natural home cooling.
Create shaded areas by installing gazebos or pergolas, particularly on the sunniest side of your home.
During the summer, awnings can also make a huge difference and they can be permanent or retractable. The Professional Awning Manufacturers Association (PAMA) estimates that they can save you up to $200 over the course of a year.
Alternatively, a trellis and climbing vines can create another shaded area, either on a patio or on your home itself.
Examine Your Exterior Color
Your home’s exterior color is something that many people totally ignore when they are looking at the heating and cooling of their home. However, according to Gardenista.com, darker colors absorb heat and create a far hotter home, in general. Light exterior paint or wood can be far more effective at cooling.
Roof color is important in the same way. According to the government advice, implementing a “cool roof” in a lighter color or with a reflective material could make your roof up to 50 degrees cooler.
Install Solar Panels on Your Roof
Instead of heating up your home, the sun’s rays can actually help with cooling it, through the use of solar panels.
When the sun’s energy hits the panels, they can turn it into power. This may, according to treehugger.com, potentially save you money on your bills by both reducing cooling needs and providing power for other things, such as fans or air conditioning.
Pay Attention to Your AC
Maintenance and Upkeep
If you neglect your air conditioner and let it fall into disrepair, you may cost yourself extra money on your bills without noticing it.
Your air conditioner can use up to 16.9% of the total electricity in your home, as we can see on this Residential Site Electricity Consumption chart.
That is a significant percentage. But, there are things you can do to either maintain or upgrade your AC system, to make it more efficient.
If the temperature is rising and your air conditioner is starting to see more use, these tips from hometips.com can help you to prepare it for summer usage.
A lot of this preparation involves simple cleaning, particularly of the filters. In fact, if you clean your AC’s filters once a month, energy.gov estimates that you can reduce the energy it consumes by between 5% and 15%.
You should be sure that your air conditioning unit is up to the task and it’s important to check its efficiency from time to time. You can do some basic tests on your AC's performance yourself and, if you spot any issues, it could be time to speak to your local HVAC technician.
Once you’ve run these checks, you might decide that it’s time to buy a new air conditioner. If this will save you money in the long run, it may be worth the initial investment.
Consider Upgrading Your AC
When you are shopping for an air conditioner, you can judge what is best by looking at its energy rating, or the SEER number (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Rating). Look for a number that is 13 or higher, or 14+ if you live somewhere particularly hot.
This rating can go up to well above 20 SEER and makes for units that are cheaper to run, but more expensive to buy, up front. According to Natural Resources Canada, you should look out for an EER (another efficiency rating given to air conditioning units) of at least 10.7.
Another simple thing you can look out for when choosing an air conditioner system is its Energy Star rating. Energy Star room units typically use around 10% less electricity than the minimum standards outlined by the government and they can cost $75 less per year to run.
Energy Star central units can use up to 8% less energy than non-certified models and, therefore, also save you money in the long run.
Energy.gov’s advice about air conditioners states that moving to a high-efficiency, high SEER-rated AC unit can save you between 20% and 50%, each year. If you have an old AC unit, you’re likely to notice huge savings.
Do a Home Energy Audit
A home energy audit is an examination of your home, to see the areas which could use the most improvement, in terms of saving energy and, therefore, money.
The audit looks at the room-by-room energy use in your home and there are contracted energy auditors out there who can do the work for you and give you a reliable report.
There is also the option to do the audit yourself, if you are so inclined.
So, How to Save Money on Air Conditioning?
Have you enjoyed our list of ways to save money on air conditioning? We’ve set out to cover all the bases and help those who, like us, have been shocked by just how much money it costs to cool their home.
Our article shows that there are a lot of ways to save money here - it might just come down to which is best and easiest for you. We’ve covered topics such as fans, government grants, and help schemes, as well as simple design alterations that can help keep your home cool.
If you have any further thoughts on these points, feel free to share a comment below.
Also, if you feel like our article might help someone you know to save them money, please go ahead and share it with them.
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