In the U.S., air conditioning accounts for 12 percent of the average residential energy costs. In Southern California and other hot and humid parts of the country, air conditioning costs go higher, especially in this time when most of us are at home on lockdown.
Economic uncertainties brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic has many of us thinking of ways to save money and cut down on costs. Others want to play a more active role in environmental protection and energy conservation.
In this article, you will learn simple and practical tips to lower your air conditioner’s energy use without sacrificing indoor air quality and comfort in your SoCal home.
Reasons Why You Have a High AC Bill
First, let’s identify what causes your energy bill to spike up because of your A.C. unit’s problems.
- Faulty A.C. installation. An oversized air conditioner will cycle on and off more rapidly and start-up more frequently, which is more costly. Higher energy costs can also come from non-sealed duct connections, bad welding and brazing, and faulty electrical connections.
- Old A.C. System. Old air conditioners that are not well-maintained may cost more to operate. Newer A.C. models are more energy-efficient and use a refrigerant that is less harmful to the environment.
- Lack of A.C. Maintenance. You will not know if dirty or faulty components make the unit work doubly hard and eat up more electricity if you don’t have your A.C. unit checked and serviced regularly. Without maintenance, your air conditioner might stop working and break down because of undiagnosed problems.
- Low Refrigerant – Your A.C. may not work at its full cooling capacity and waste energy if there’s a leak in the refrigerant line. This leak will also freeze your coils and damage your A.C. unit.
- Broken AC Parts – If your A.C.’s compressor, capacitors, motors, and other parts are broken, your A.C. will need to cycle longer and work harder to reach your desired room temperature. This consumes more energy and, left unchecked, can lead to your A.C. unit’s shutdown.
- Duct Leaks – Your central A.C. distributes cold air in every room of the house through ductwork or a connection of ducts. Duct leaks waste energy as cold air escapes, and your rooms don’t reach the thermostat temperature, which strains the central A.C. system to work harder.
- Dirty Air Filters – Dust and debris buildup in dirty air filters restrict the airflow, which takes your A.C. unit longer to cool down your home. Increased cycling equates to higher energy bills and overheating your motors, compressor, and other A.C. parts.
5 Tips to Reduce Your AC Bill
Saving energy doesn’t mean you have to suffer through the sweltering heat. Try these ways to reduce your electric bill while keeping your home cool and comfortable.
1. Remove Airflow Obstructions
Your air conditioner will not efficiently work if something is blocking the airflow.
- Move furniture away from air vents to ensure that cold air passes through and circulates appropriately.
- Move curtains or blackout blinds that obstruct the flow of cold air from the blower.
- Remove grass or debris blocking the airflow in your A.C. unit’s outdoor part.
2. Clean or Change Your Air Filters
You can save money by keeping your air conditioner clean. Replacing a clogged air filter can save you 10 to 15 percent in energy use.
- Consult your A.C. unit’s user manual if the air filters can be cleaned or need replacement every time. Clean or change your air filters at least every three months or more frequently if you have pets or children in the house.
- Turn the A.C. unit off before removing the air filter. Do not turn on the A.C. without the air filters back in place.
- Consult the manufacturer’s manual on how to remove the air filters properly. Depending on the A.C. type, you might need to unscrew it, slide the front panel off, or unhinge it using a pointed object.
- You can use a vacuum cleaner for a routine clean, soak the air filters in a tub of water with detergent, brush away the grime, and rinse thoroughly.
- If you notice holes, tears, or any damage in the air filter, replace it with a new one.
3. Install a Thermostat in a Cooler Spot in Your Home
Thermostats near a sunny window, electrical appliances, or hot surfaces pick up the heat and require the A.C. unit to cycle longer and harder. This jacks up the electricity cost. Also, try these thermostat tips to reduce your A.C.’s energy consumption.
- Don’t place a thermostat near warm light or hot surfaces.
- Raise the thermostat temperature above normal before leaving the house since there’s no need to keep your home cool with no one around.
- Invest in a smart thermostat that can learn your activities and adjust the room temperature based on them. It will raise the temperature when no one is at the house and bring the room to your desired temperature as soon as you get home.
4. Turn Off Electronics When Not in Use
Your home has lots of electronic devices generating heat – television, audio system, microwave oven, chargers, and others. Turn these appliances and devices off periodically to reduce indoor heat and cut down on A.C. costs. You’re not just saving on A.C. energy consumption, but you’re also reducing overall electricity costs by turning off your electronics every so often.
5. Don’t Let Cold Air Escape from Your Home
Your air conditioner will not reach the desired temperature if cold air seeps away through doors, windows, and ducts, and you waste a lot of energy.
- Try weather stripping, caulking, or refitting your windows and doors to get a tighter seal, prevent cold air from seeping outside, and stop warm air from coming inside.
- Install a radiant barrier in your attic to protect your home from heating and cooling leakage. A radiant barrier prevents cold air from escaping through the cracks and reduces energy use by eight to twelve percent.
- Have a professional HVAC technician check for air duct leaks and seal them.
- Replace your old windows with high-impact windows that seal in the cold air and prevent heat and U.V. rays from entering your home. You can install a reflective film on your windows that absorb up to 60 percent of the heat from outside for a less expensive alternative.
Reduce A.C. Costs with Regular A.C. Maintenance
The best way to save on energy when using your air conditioner is to ensure that it works at its best. With proper cleaning and regular maintenance, your A.C. unit will not cycle harder and longer, overwork its parts, and break down unexpectedly.