What Your Neighbor Knows About Cooling Costs That You Don't

There's nothing worse than suffering through heat, other than perhaps knowing that the guy next to you isn't.  For many people, this uncomfortable feeling hits home when they realize they're the only ones on their block completely sizzling in sweltering summer temperatures.

How is it that your neighbor seems to have his AC switched on 24/7 without a second thought?  The first (and simplest step) is to cut your cooling costs in half, or completely if cooling requires a complete AC installation, and get yourself a portable cooler.

As recently featured on Fox 11 News, portable cooling units provide cooling comparable to central units, for just pennies on the dollar.  A mobile cooling unit, whether an AC or an evaporative cooler, is the single most simplest thing you can do to escape from summer heat and summer cooling bills.

As for the rest of you, stuck with bulky and expensive-to-run central air conditioners, try some of these tips to attempt to lower the notch on your monthly cooling bill:

  • When you're shopping for a central air conditioning system, make sure the SEER number (seasonal energy efficiency ratio) is 13 or better (14 in warmer climates). A less efficient system will cost you more to run. Look for an EER (energy efficiency ratio) of 11 or higher for room air conditioners. A high efficiency unit costs more, but if you live in a hot climate, it will pay for itself in a few years by reducing electricity bills.

  • Perform regular maintenance on your air conditioning unit. Replace the filter monthly during the cooling season and have a professional service your system at the beginning of each cooling season.

  • A cooling system is one of the biggest energy guzzlers in your home (second only to your heating system, depending on where you live). If you have an old air conditioning system with a SEER rating of less than 8, it may be worthwhile to consider replacing it with a more energy efficient system. You should be able to recoup the cost in just a few years.

  • Install a programmable thermostat so you can vary the temperature according to when you're home. Set it to 78 degrees when you're home. If you'll be gone for more than a few hours, it makes sense to set the air conditioning at 85 degrees while you're gone.

  • Make sure your air conditioning condenser is located in a shady spot and has room to dispose of the heated air it removes from your house. Don't crowd it with shrubs or anything else.

  • Plant shade trees and shrubs around your house to help reduce the heat of the sun, especially on the west and south sides. This can reduce your cooling costs by up to 30%.

  • Close drapes on the sunny side of your house.

  • Install awnings on the windows on the sunny side of your house.

  • Sealing up air leaks in your house will reduce your air conditioning costs as well as heating costs. Caulk or seal places where utilities come into your home (plumbing, electricity, dryer vents, etc.). Fill gaps around chimneys and weatherstrip around drafty windows and doors.

  • Install energy efficient ceiling fans and run them on hot days. If it's just a little too warm for comfort, use the ceiling fan without air conditioning. If it's hot enough to require air conditioning, using the ceiling fans at the same time allows you to raise the temperature setting by five degrees, which will reduce your costs. Use the ceiling fan only when you're in the room, because running the fan doesn't actually lower the temperature. The moving air increases the amount of evaporation from your skin and helps cool you off.

  • The darker the color of your house, the more heat it will absorb, so if you're building, buying, or considering repainting, choose lighter colors for the exterior.

  • Thirty percent of the heat in your house is absorbed through the roof. Make sure your attic is properly ventilated. Vents in the eaves allows cooler air to enter. A ridge vent or an attic fan can significantly reduce your cooling costs.

  • Consider putting reflective window tint on your windows to reduce the amount of heat absorbed.

  • Any heat that's generated inside your home has to be removed by your cooling system, so avoid generating heat inside your home whenever possible. Cook on your outdoor grill as often as possible, or use a crockpot and the microwave oven. Use the 'air dry' setting on your dishwasher.

  • Close off rooms that you aren't using and the cooling ducts to those rooms.

  • Make sure the cooled air coming from your air conditioning vents is not obstructed by furniture or draperies.

  • Turn off lights when not in use. Lights produce heat, which makes your air conditioning system work harder (and cost more).

  • Your computer and other home office equipment also generate heat. Turn them off when not in use.

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