When temperatures rise, consumers’ energy bills also rise. This can be a difficult situation for seniors as well as others living on a fixed income. Some people know just how high the numbers on these bills can climb, and this is especially true for people who do not know how to reduce their energy usage. There are several easy ways to cut the cooling bill.
1. Shade the unit or condenser. If possible, make sure the condenser or unit is in the shade. If there are no trees shading it, consider installing an awning. Although this requires spending money, an awning is a good investment. Keeping the unit shaded can reduce energy consumption by up to 10 percent. This means that the awning will pay for itself in a short amount of time. However, it is important to avoid restricting airflow around the unit. Any enclosures, shrubs and other items that prohibit air from freely flowing should be placed elsewhere.
2. Inspect the ducts. For central AC units, look carefully at the duct work. If there are any gaps, seal them immediately. Air leaks are common in older houses, and it is estimated that at least 20 percent of the cold air escapes through these gaps. Caulking or weather stripping around doors and windows can also help keep the cool air in.
3. Install timing devices. For central AC systems, install a programmable thermostat. If there are window units, install timers to turn them on and off in sync with a personal routine. For example, make sure the AC is not running while the home is vacant. When a room with a window AC unit is vacant, turn the device off. Program it to go off in the evenings, and use the house fan or window fans whenever possible.
4. Change or clean the filter regularly. When AC units are in use, it is best to change their filters once each month. Many home improvement stores sell permanent filters, which can be cleaned with water and reused. For those who have central systems, it is worth the money to have a professional clean and service the unit at the beginning of the hot season.
5. Replace outdated units. Not all people have the money to drop on a new central AC system or even a window unit. If possible, save up before the hotter months arrive. When it is time to buy a new unit, look for one with an Energy Star certification. These units use between 30 percent and 50 percent less energy, so they will pay for themselves in savings over a short amount of time.
To make sure the energy bills are as low as possible, remember to turn off the lights in rooms that are not in use. By practicing these helpful tips each year, families can save more money for a vacation to escape the heat.