Does the sight of your home’s cooling bill have you boiling over? If you’re seeing a rise in costs but not comfort, it may be time to take serious action. We’re going to share a few ways that you can control how often – and how hard – you run your air conditioner, which in turn will affect your utility bills.
But this isn’t your average “keep the shades lowered and don’t use the oven” advice. This is advice for homeowners who are serious about improving their comfort, the conditions in their home, and ultimately reducing their costs over the long term.
1. Control Humidity
You can read more about this in another blog where we discussed the benefits of a whole house dehumidifier, but to sum it up, humid air feels warmer, which means you’re going to lower the temperature to maintain your comfort level.
The more you run your air conditioning unit, the higher the cost. A dehumidifier, on the other hand, uses a fraction of the power that it takes to run your air conditioner. When used in conjunction with a dehumidifier, your air conditioner won’t have to work as hard to keep your home cool. That means you can raise the temperature and run it less.
That saves you money on energy costs, and it puts less wear and tear on the system over the long term, reducing costs for repairs and replacements.
2. Follow A Maintenance Schedule
We’ve also talked about the importance of annual maintenance, which has multiple benefits. First, it will help keep your air conditioner running at peak performance, which means that it will be cooling your home at maximum efficiency. Second, it will extend the life of your unit as a whole, which means lower long-term costs for repair, upkeep and even replacement.
A central air conditioning system can lose as much as 15% of its efficiency in a year if it’s not maintained properly. Considering that air conditioning costs typically account for a solid 50% of your energy costs during summer months, that lost efficiency can really add up.
Plus, when you consider the sheer number of moving parts that go into running an air conditioner, you’ll begin to understand why it’s so important to make sure that everything is – literally – running like a well-oiled machine. It makes a difference in how much it costs to run your unit in the short term, and how much it costs to repair it in the long term.
3. Get Smart About Your Thermostat
It seems like our homes are getting smarter than we are these days. From voice controlled commands to automatic lighting schemes, there’s a lot you can do at the touch of an app. And that includes setting and controlling your thermostat.
Instead of manually setting the temperature, consider having a smart thermostat installed, and programming it to follow a schedule that mirrors your daily activities.
For example, set it to raise the temperature during work hours when nobody’s home, and lower it when you’re scheduled to return. Raising the temperature just 7-10 degrees while you’re at work can save you 10% on your energy costs.
If you’re forced to manually adjust the temperature, the temptation is to lower it dramatically in an effort to cool off faster. But not only doesn’t that cool your home faster, it can actually lead to excessive cooling and higher bills.
Better yet, if you go on vacation and forget to raise the temperature while you’re away, you can do that easily from your smart phone.
4. Check The Ducts
If you’ve been watching your cooling bills rise, you may blame an old or faulty air conditioning unit or even bad energy policy. You’re probably not thinking that your ducts could be to blame.
But did you know that more than 30% of your cool air could be lost to leaky ductwork? Even well-sealed ductwork leaks some air. So if yours is older, not as well insulated, poorly installed or even blocked, it could be dramatically affecting the efficiency – and cost – of running your air conditioner.
In fact, the Department of Energy cites leaky ducts as a top energy waster, which translates into higher bills for you.
When ducts leak, and cool air is lost to attics or the building’s structure, your air conditioning unit has to work harder to keep your home cool. And as we’ve mentioned before, harder work means more money, and more wear and tear that can negatively impact your system’s efficiency over time.
5. Go Ductless
If you’ve got a room that’s tough to cool, you may be tempted to lower the temperature overall in order to compensate. This happens frequently with bedrooms that are over the garage, with sunrooms, or even in multi-story, single-zone homes where the top floors always feel uncomfortably warm.
So if you’re freezing out other areas of your home, and watching energy bills rise just to keep the bedroom cool, it may be time to consider another option: ductless air conditioning units.
These are just what they sound like. Small, typically wall-mounted units that don’t connect to your ductwork and operate independently of your central air system. They’re highly energy efficient and will never lose cool air to leaky ducts.
Better yet, they can cool during summer and heat during winter, so if you have an uncooperative room, they’ll improve your comfort and reduce energy costs all year long.
Sometimes, a rise in energy costs is simply a matter of an old and ailing air conditioning system. And while installing a new unit is an investment in the short term, it can save you quite a bit on expenses in the long term.
Other times, your existing system may not have the capacity to cool your space. That can happen if you’ve added onto your home and extended the ductwork to accommodate new rooms.
And now, with the ban on the coolant R22, you may find the cost to maintain an old system skyrocketing.
If you find yourself in one of those scenarios, replacing your system may be your best bet. Remember, energy bills account for only part of the cost of running your unit. Repairs and replacement parts can also put a dent in your bank account.
As a general rule of thumb, if a repair or replacement part is going to cost about half as much as a new system, you’re better off replacing it. But also beware of watching your money drip into a bottomless pool. Expenses can creep up on you slowly but cost a lot more over time.
If any of the things we’ve discussed here strike a chord, let us know how we can help. Call us at (732) 316-5554 or contact us online for a free estimate to maintain, repair, replace or upgrade your system.