Cool your home for less

In many parts of the country, air conditioning is essential. You simply cannot exist without it — the heat can be extremely dangerous. If you cannot afford to purchase an air conditioner, there are many city, county and state programs that will help you out.

But then, your electric goes up. I remember there was a time that my parents never ran their air conditioning, because of the electric bill. With some frugal tips, they realized that their bill didn’t need to soar out of control due to the hot weather.

When you are buying a window unit, don’t just go for the largest you can buy. But then again, the smallest won’t work either. Buy your air unit based on the size of the room you are planning to cool. An air conditioner that is too large or too small for the room will work too hard and cost you too much.

You want to check the SEER number on central air units. This number tells you how efficient the unit will be (seasonal energy efficiency ratio). You should look for a SEER number of 14 or better. Less efficient systems cost you more to cool a room.

When purchasing a window unit, you should look for a EER number of 11 or higher. The higher the number, the more the unit will cost. But the energy savings over time will be well worth the initial cost.

Remember to take care of your unit. Replace or clean the filter once a month. If you don’t, your air conditioner will have to work harder. It can even burn out — so to say — if the filter is too clogged. This is especially important if you live in a dusty or rural area.

You cooling system can be one of the most costly energy drains in your home. If your unit is quite old and you are seeing high energy bills, you should consider replacing your unit with a newer version. You should recoup the cost in only a few years.

If you have central air, a programmable thermostat can help you save money. You can set the thermostat to automatically adjust by time of day. You can have it run less when you are gone or at night, and more when you are home. This often makes more sense than shutting it off and having to recool the entire home.

Make sure that your air conditioner is in a shady location and has room to get rid of heat. It is tempting to surround a central air unit with shrubs or flowers. This could cause the unit to hold on to too much heat.

Plant shade trees around your home. Shade is especially helpful on the west and south sides. This can reduce your cooling costs by 30%.

If you are unable to plant shade, you should put up heavy drapes on your windows that get the most sunlight. I know that at my house, my west facing windows are quite large. It can get really hot by them in the mid-afternoon. You can also consider putting reflective window tint. There are versions that are clear, yet block the suns rays fairly well.

The darker the color of your home, the more heat it will absorb. Studies show that lighter colored roofs translate into more energy efficiency in the summer.

You can close off the rooms you don’t use to save on cooling costs. There is no reason to cool a quest room that no one goes in except once a month or so. Many people simply cool their living room, kitchen and bedroom during the summer. This can save a lot of money.

Turn off all lights that aren’t in use. They generate a little heat. You should try to avoid cooking in your oven. This is the time to take advantage of that microwave, crock pot or toaster oven. Have you ever noticed how hot a kitchen can get even with the air conditioning on when you are cooking?

It is possible to cut your energy costs during the summer. Simply turn off the lights, television and electronic equipment in return for the air conditioning. After all, you can sit in the cool and read a good book.

Martin Lukac
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