How I Save Money on Air Conditioning

Saving money on your summer air conditioning costs could be as easy as buying a $10 programmable thermostat, or it can be as costly as upgrading your entire cooling system.  What works for you of course depends on your circumstances.  Why am I writing about this?  Well, this week we turned on our air conditioning for the first time and a loud grinding noise started circulating through the house.  It’s made me wonder whether we need a new air conditioner, and if so, would it be worth it?

While thinking about this, I decided to look into several ways to help save money on air conditioning.  Here’s what I came up with.

Every degree matters.  First of all, don’t cool things down any more than you need to.  Each degree that you cool your house accounts for 1-3% of your cooling bill.  If you can live with a few degrees warmer and have a big house, this can save ten to twenty dollars every month.   If you are leaving your house for the day, weekend or week, turn off the AC until you get back. Use some of the other methods below to help you raise your thermostat a few degrees.

Use that programmable thermostat.  Most modern houses already have a programmable thermostat.  The problem is that very few people actually use them.  By setting up a program so that your house is cooled only when needed, you can set your savings on autopilot.  Set it to shut off during the day when you are not home and to turn on just before you normally arrive home.  Also, because you are inactive at night, you can tolerate a little more heat, so set your thermostat accordingly.  If you don’t have a programmable thermostat, you can get one for pretty cheap.  Check with your electricity provider to see if they have any rebates.

save on cooling costs this summer

Fans are Cheaper than AC

Shut down areas of the house that you don’t use.  There’s no point in cooling down the whole house if you don’t need to.  For example, I shut down the air conditioning vents in our basement every summer.  And sometimes, when we need the AC to cool the upstairs bedrooms, we turn off the vents on the main level so that the cool air will only be directed to where we need it.  Not only is it more efficient, but it cools down the area you need much quicker.

Fans are cheaper than air conditioning.  Ceiling fans make the equivalent of ten degrees of coolness.  In other words, a ceiling fan can eliminate the need for air conditioning at night in bedrooms, and can help a living room feel much cooler too.  If it’s not possible to install a ceiling fan, you can still use an oscillating fan.  Fans are much more efficient and less expensive to operate than air conditioning.

Upgrading your system can payoff, but not for a long time.  When you look at the cost of a new air conditioner, it is very expensive.  I’ve read somewhere that a new AC unit only costs about $500-$1,000, but that’s not true in my case.  We’d have to replace quite a bit of our unit and the labor alone would be more than $1,000.  Since we really only have three months of cooling here in Wisconsin, I’m not so sure that an upgrade would ever pay for itself.  However, since our AC is on its last leg, I’ll tell myself that at least it will help me save back some of the money I’ll need to spend to upgrade/replace it.

Get an efficiency check.  Not only should you have your AC checked by a technician every few years, but you should have your home audited for any leaks or drafts.  Efficient homes not only save on cooling costs, but also on heating costs, because less outside air is allowed to penetrate into the house.

Use curtains and windows wisely.  If the sun heats up certain areas of the house each day, use blinds or curtains to block the sun.  You can use cellulose blinds and still let in most of the light.  Also, leaving your windows open at night to let the cool air in, and then closing them during the day to keep it cool can also save you.

Plan for the future.  There are some other things that you can do to get long term savings on cooling costs.  For example, you can look into getting a wind turbine or solar panels to help generate some of your electricity.  They are still pretty expensive compared to the savings, but they are gradually becoming a more realistic alternative.  Also, you can plant large shade trees on the areas of your house that take the most sun.

What Others Are Saying About Saving on Air Conditioning

This is the part where we go find another interesting article about today’s topic and share it with our readers.  Today, we found a timely article on Yahoo Finance that talks about ways to save on AC.  Here are some of the ideas that they provided.

Weigh upgrading Replacing an older air-conditioner with one that’s Energy-Star-rated could cut bills by 30%. Just make sure it’s the right size for the space — a too-powerful unit wastes energy, Kweller says. This time of year, there are plenty of sales on units, and utility companies may have rebates, too, she says. Austin Energy in Texas, for example, is offering $50 on some window air conditioners. But although many central air units tend to decline in efficiency after 10 to 12 years, there’s no hard-and-fast rule on when a unit should be replaced, Passe says. “It depends on how much use that system has had and whether it’s getting the job done,” he says…..
Reduce home heat loads “Heat getting into the house means your system has to work to cool that load,” Passe says. Keep it out, and you might not need to turn on the a/c at all, or at as low a temperature. Outside, trees and awnings can block sun from hitting the home directly. Inside, closing curtains during the day can also keep out heating sunshine, he says. Muller says it’s also smart to use heat-generating appliances such as ovens and clothes dryers only during the early morning and evening, when it’s generally cooler…..

The rest of this article can be found at Cooling down summer ac bills.  I like what they have to say about upgrading, but I’m not sure that I believe that upgrading my AC would save me 30%.  Maybe if it was 30 years old, but it’s really not that old, and the AC guy that came out last year said the new one’s aren’t that much more efficient.  Anyway, still some solid advice.

That’s what we have to say about saving on summer cooling costs.  Do you have anything to add or to say about this subject?  If so, leave us a comment.


{ 2 comments… add one }
  • S.O. Price June 4, 2012, 6:19 pm

    I’ve been unemployed for some time and have not been able to use my central AC. I just have not been able to justify the cost. Last summer a light bulb went off in my head and I thought, “Why not just try to use the furnace fan without setting the AC on?” It turned out to be a great idea. I would turn on the whole house fan and run it for an hour or two and just getting the air circulating made the difference between being able to tolerate the heat that day or spending the day in the basement. I really did not notice a difference in my electric bill from the summer before when all I had was a small fan or two around the house.

    I live in a northern climate and my house is well-insulated so perhaps my idea would not work so well in southern climates. However I would encourage anyone to give it a try, especially in the spring or fall when the hot days may be more sporadic. Instead of giving in to the temptation of turning on the AC just to knock a few degrees on off the temperature, just try turning the furnace fan on and see if that keeps the house tolerably cool. Ahhh…relief.

  • Climate Control June 5, 2012, 9:49 am

    I really enjoyed this article. The section about every degree matters is totally correct. Most people think a degree here or there won’t make much of a difference. Yet every degree will cost you one way or another on your energy bill.


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