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Woman holding a remote control air conditioner

5 Ways to Keep Cool and Cut Costs

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In most American households, air conditioning accounts for roughly half of the energy costs during the hot, humid months of summer. To keep cool and cut costs, try these five simple strategies.

1. Clean or Replace Air Filters

Most air conditioning systems use one of two basic types of air filters. Some have permanent filters that can be cleaned, dried and reinstalled, while others use disposable filters. In either case, dirty filters make the system work harder, so clean or replace them on a regular basis. Naturally, you should follow the manufacturer’s recommendation. In general if your AC is in constant use during warm months, clean or replace filters monthly. If your AC use is intermittent, do it every 60 to 90 days.

2. Reduce Heat Buildup

While heat gain is caused by the sun, household appliances, incandescent lights, electronic components and similar equipment also generate heat. In fact, 90% of the energy used by the typical incandescent light is released as heat.

The less heat you introduce into your home throughout the day, the less energy you’ll use to cool it again. To reduce heat buildup, avoid turning on lights during the hottest hours of the day and turn them off when you leave the room. Avoid using heat-generating appliances like ovens, dishwashers and clothes dryers during daytime hours and find alternate solutions. Cook foods in the microwave or on an outdoor grill, skip the drying cycle on the dishwasher and allow clothes to air dry.

3. Use Ventilation Fans Wisely

Ventilation fans are designed to remove moist air from bathrooms and smoke, grease and odors from kitchens. Once the fan has done its job, turn it off. Otherwise, it’s simply pulling conditioned air out of your living space, reducing comfort levels and forcing the AC system to work harder.

4. Seal Gaps

That tiny gap between the window and frame looks inconsequential, but it can significantly affect cooling costs. In fact, a 1/32-inch air gap around the edges of a 35 x 26 inch window allows so much air to leak out, it’s the same as having a 6.5-inch hole in the wall. This constant stream of leaking air forces your AC system to work harder overall. To start saving money tomorrow and continue to save year round, invest a few dollars in caulk and weatherstripping, then seal these gaps.

5. Seal and Insulate Ducts

Small gaps in ductwork let conditioned air escape before it reaches your living space. Sealing these gaps is an easy way to increase comfort without overworking your system. In homes where ductwork is accessible, sealing gaps with metal tape or duct sealant then wrapping ducts with insulation can boost system efficiency by as much as 20%. If most ducts are concealed in walls or floors, energy experts say sealing and insulating those you can access is still worthwhile.

In combination, small changes can make a big difference. The US Department of Energy notes clean air filters can reduce AC energy consumption by as much as 15%, which translates into real savings over time. Implement these low- and no-cost strategies, and you can stay cool, cut costs now and reduce energy consumption all year long.

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