We’re getting excited to feel that summer sun, but perhaps not as excited to pay that summer electric bill. To keep cool on the hottest days, we crank up the AC, turn on fans, and may even take refuge inside in front of the TV when it’s really steamy. So with all energy being used to keep you comfortable, how can you keep your electric bill comfortable, too? Here are our four ways to beat the heat and lower your electric bill.
Watch When You Open Those Windows!
Opening your windows for fresh air may seem like the cheapest way to bring down your electric bill, because your air conditioning unit won’t be running. And it can be, according to the Department of Energy – but only if you live in a climate where it cools off in both temperature and humidity. The Department of Energy says you can save energy by turning off your cooling system at night and opening your windows while sleeping. But they remind homeowners that “when you wake in the morning, shut the windows and blinds to capture the cool air.”
However, our resident expert Keith Hill, Minnesota Air’s technical support manager, points out that you need to make sure that it’s both cool and dry outside before you crack those windows open.
“When you let all the cool air in on a humid night, it takes more energy to remove the humidity the next day than what you saved by opening the windows for the free cooling,” he says.
Turn Up The Temperature Setting
This is an obvious one, but choosing a higher temperature setting will save operating costs, because the AC won’t run as often. The Department of Energy suggests setting your thermostat “as high as comfortably possible in the summer. The smaller the difference between the indoor and outdoor temperatures, the lower your overall cooling bill will be.”
Also, remember that your house won’t need as much cooling when you’re away, because there is no one there to feel the difference. Pets are accustomed to different temperatures, so as long as it’s not scorching hot and there is access to water and fresh air in your home, they should be fine if you don’t have it set as low as when you are present. A programmable thermostat can help you do that!
Keep Your AC Unit Clean
Keith says a not-so-obvious way to lower your electric bill is to maintain your system for peak efficiency. That means cleaning and/or replacing your HVAC system’s filters regularly.
“The AC has to run much harder with lower airflow (with dirty filters). Keep the outdoor unit clean for the same reason – it’s harder and much less efficient to reject the heat when the outdoor coils are dirty,” he says.
Here is a checklist of items that you should do before you power on your AC for the season.
Consider A Replacement
Lastly, if your air conditioner is older than 10 or 12 years, it may be time to consider buying a new unit.
“Even if it’s working fine, older AC units of that vintage are typically 8 to 12 SEER efficient, (compared to) new units which are 13 to 21 SEER,” says Keith. “You could be saving 20 percent, 30 percent, or much more on your AC operating costs if you upgrade to a new unit.”
When looking for a new unit, Keith reminds people that the SEER number an AC is given is directly related to savings. The higher the SEER number, the more efficient the product is, and the bigger the savings you’ll see on your bill.
“SEER is BTU per watt, so a 16 SEER unit will save you more than 60% over a 10 SEER unit,” he says.
Plus, SEER ratings are all third-party confirmed by the Air-Conditioning, Heating & Refrigeration Institute, so HVAC manufacturers have all agreed to use the same rating agency to keep it fair and consistent.
Whether you do a whole unit replacement or take small mindful steps, you’ll be saving money on your electric bill in no time if you start making changes before the next heat wave hits.