It is now May and we are really starting to heat up in South Carolina. By the end of the month we should be steadily in the 90 degree temps every day.
While this is a welcome change for my kids who are already dreaming of the neighborhood pool, my Electric bill is starting to quiver with fear.
Since the three small people in my house don’t seem to be able to close the doors, finding some ways to cut the cost of AC is a big money saver. I put in some research time and came up with these 25 ways to save money on air conditioning.
Keep Yourself Cool Other Ways
If you aren’t using air conditioning, then they cannot charge you for it. The reality is that you can save the most money on air conditioning by using less.
Install Ceiling Fans
Ceiling fans make it feel three to eight degrees cooler in whatever room you are in. The principal is that ceiling fans move the air around you, this gets the hot air that your body is emitting away from you and also allows any small amounts of perspiration to evaporate quickly. Both of these actions cool you down.
If you do install ceiling fans you need to make sure that they are blowing in the right direction. If you are using the fan in conjunction with the air conditioning, then have the fan push air away from you. If you are using it for the purpose of moving air around your body, then you want it to be pointing down and blowing directly on you. For most ceiling fans, the fan will blow down when it is spinning counter-clockwise.
Use a Bed Fan
Frequently used for people who experience night sweats or hot flashes, bed fans run a gentle breeze under your sheets as you sleep. This can allow you to save money on the AC by turning up the temperature on your thermostat at night.
There are some REALLY expensive ones out there, but this one runs $80 and doesn’t take up a ton of space so you stub your toe in the middle of the night.
Use a Chilling Pillow
There are water cooled pillows that help keep your head cooled down while you sleep. The most famous is called “The Chillow” and the reviews of them are all very good.
They are pretty affordable and they even advertise to help with relief for flu, fever, headaches and several other maladies. I could see this being a big help for sunburn.
You should probably make sure all the blinds and curtains are closed before doing this, but at least try switching to lighter types of clothing. The one real argument for going full out in the buff is that you will also save money on doing the laundry.
Rinse off In the Shower
A quick cool shower can cool you down for a good period of time. Make sure you are not using warm water as that will heat up the bathroom and make your A/C work hard to remove the heat.
One area where we frequently forget to keep it cool is reducing the heat we use around the house. If you don’t heat things up, then your AC unit doesn’t have to work to cool it down again. Here are three areas we can easily reduce the amount of heat we produce inside.
Take a Break from Baking
Now don’t get the idea that apple pie is not necessary for the 4th of July, but baking less can really save you. The oven will heat up your house which you then have to cool down again.
If you are doing small meals try using a good toaster oven. We purchased one that has a convection feature and it does a great job for small meals. We just started cooking chicken fritters from Zaycon Fresh and they turned out AWESOME!
This is a great time of year to grill out and keep all that cooking heat outside. Even using the stove top instead of the oven will save you.
Take a Cold (or colder) Shower
You may think this funny but it will save you money on two fronts. First you are not heating up your home with steam. If you have a vent that you run you are also moving air out of your house and like me you may forget and leave that fan running which then wastes the AC. Also, you will lose less hot water which means that you will put less strain on your hot water heater. Even if you have a tankless water heater you will use less energy by taking cooler shorter showers.
Keep the Lights Low
Depending on which type of lights you use you could be heating up your rooms. CFLs are better than Incandescent bulbs, but LEDs produce the least heat of the group. LED lighting has gotten much cheaper over the last couple of years, they last longer, and they cost less to use. So start switching your lighting out as your incandescent and CFL bulbs go bad.
I found LED bulbs on Amazon for just under $3 a bulb. That is not a great price now a days, so I would try Lowes and Home Depot for their best deals.
Doors and Windows
Doors and windows are the gateways to our homes. They are also the gateway for all the heat outside. Here are some ideas
Plug The Holes
You have to treat the “paid for air” like it is vaporized gold seeping out of your home. So check your windows and doors for places you may be losing your air. You can repair most of these with inexpensive caulk, weather strips, or foam that you can find at your local hardware store.
Use Thermal Window Panels
In the same vein, they actually make window panels that are attractive and decorative, but also have thermal properties as well as light and sound reducing properties. The best of these window panels are the Eclipse Thermaback Blackout Panels. These panels will block 99% of light and 40% of sound from your windows. The most amazing property is they are specially made to help insulate your windows from the rest of your house. These can save you as much as 25% off your heating and cooling bills (not letting light or heat in) and are great for a home theatre room. Obviously if you have high end windows it will be less and if you are using plastic wrap with duct tape it will be more. The best price I could find was $14.99 on Amazon.com (free shipping if you spend $35 or more or have Amazon Prime).
Put Solar Screens on the Windows
There are actual solar screens that are made with a special mesh that blocks the sunlight. You can get these screens to block up to 90% of the sunlight. Most people really do well with 60% to 70% blocking, that way you don’t have to use the lights in your house that also produce heat.
This option is great for rooms that are not frequently used and can stand to be a bit darker.
Use Storm Windows and Doors
If you have an older home with single pane windows or doors that are leaking air, then storm windows and doors are an affordable way to go. You can go pretty cheap with these and still get up to 50% benefit over the leaky alternatives.
Install Reflective Film on Windows and Storm Doors
Reflective film is a great way to block the heat from the sun. This film can reflect 40-60% of heat while still letting in the visible light that makes your room. These reflective films are relatively inexpensive at less than $2 per square foot if you want to pull a DIY.
Attic and Roof Changes that Save Money on AC
Since the sun beats down on your roof and the attic is just below, making slight changes to these two important parts of your home can make big differences in your cooling bills. Some of these are worth doing when you have to make a replacement and others are worth the investment any time.
Proper Insulation of Attic
If you do not have good insulation in your attic you are looking at up to a 40% heat loss. Older homes frequently have 2-3 inches of insulation. If you increase this to 8-14 inches you can save up to $145 per year (based on 1200 square feet of ceiling). Check out how much insulation you need in the attic on the Department of Energy website.
Radiant barriers are kind of like aluminum foil or a special paint that goes on the underside of your roof. It blocks the radiant heat that leaks into your home and saves you in the range of 3-8%.
I always think of metal as something that heats up in the sun, but metal rooves actually reflect more heat than asphalt shingles. If you aren’t into the old country home style of roofing, they now make metal shingles that resemble the very nice wooden shingles. Metal rooves are made to be permanent so if you are thinking this is your longer term home the investment will save you in the long run.
Get a White Roof
If you don’t feel like metal is the option for you then you can do a white roof. These shingles reflect the sun instead of absorbing it. This will get you 10-20% in savings on your air conditioning.
Plant Shade Trees
While this is not exactly a roof change it does keep the sun off your roof. You can reduce the temperature in your home by up to 20 degrees and get a good 40% energy savings just by having some nice shady trees in strategic places around your home.
HVAC System Changes that Can Save Money
Some of these are SUPER simple and others require a big investment. Making sure your system is working at its best will save you a ton in the long run.
Change or Wash Your Filters
Making it easy for your home cooling system to move air helps it work more efficiently. I am as guilty as anyone for not changing or cleaning the filters on a regular basis. I recommend spending the little bit of extra cash and getting reusable filters that you can just rinse with a hose, but either way get those filters clean so the unit works the most efficiently.
Get Duct Work Checked for Leaks
Leaky ducts cost the average home 27% of the cooling or heating. Having leaks in your ducts and poor insulation around those ducts makes a huge difference in your energy bills. You can save in the range of $200 a year on electric bills.
If you are not at home you do not want to be paying for cooling (or heating for that matter). Also, with temperatures dipping in the evening you want to let your AC have a rest while you are sleeping. The best way to do this is with a programmable thermostat.
Now I know some people are worried about keeping it cool for your cat, but cats are evil and are close friends of the devil so they should already be used to a little heat. Having a properly programmed thermostat can save as much as 30% of your costs on an annual basis. If you don’t have a programmable thermostat I found them on Amazon for around $25.
Yes they look terrible, but central AC is the most convenient not the most efficient means of cooling your home. Cooling rooms that do not need it makes the biggest difference. If you switch to window units and only cool the rooms you use you will save big bucks.
My wife and I know this one first hand. When we purchased our home it was a foreclosure and the upstairs unit was dead. At the time it was just me and Amy so we only cooled and heated our master bedroom. When we started using the central system upstairs the bills did go up. Of course that coincided with keeping our new baby boy cool during the summer so we were good with it.
These systems are relatively new and are still on the expensive side, but you get the advantage of a unit in each room with no duct work. The units are mounted to the wall so some people are not keen on their appearance. The big savings, once again, is in having cooling only in rooms that you need it.
I have met two people with these types of systems and they are a pretty awesome idea. You have a series of piping that goes under the ground and circulates water through those pipes. The heat gets taken out of your house and pushed into the water. Then it goes into the ground.
The upfront cost of these systems is what keeps most people from getting them. You are looking at almost twice the cost of your standard air system. What you get is 30-60% less energy usage. This means the system should pay for itself in about 6 years. Did I mention they are still giving a 30% tax credit to help with the costs on these systems?
Overall you can save a bundle if you do just implement a few of these tactics for reducing your air conditioning bill. Now, if only my wife could decide what color of thermal window panels she wants.