Saving Energy Series: Air Conditioning

An HVAC system uses a lot of energy to cool your home. Think of it this way – it basically needs to use an amount of energy equal to the temperature of the heat going into your home. More heat = more energy requirement to cool it … which can become significant in a hot climate like Texas.

Not the most efficient model, yet it’s what we have. But there are actually some very simple things you can do to reduce your cooling (and heating) costs and save energy in your home. None of these are expensive, and none also provide huge cost savings but the incremental savings each provides accumulates over time.

Reduce Air Leaks

Reducing air leaks can be one of the easiest places to start with your energy savings projects – and one that can often be tackled in a single weekend.

Your air conditioner is cooling two sources of air: outdoor air that is used for ventilation, and recirculating indoor air. If you are cooling your air, and that cool air escapes in warmer surroundings, then you have essentially wasted the energy you used (and paid for!) to cool that air.  And of course the same works in reverse in the winter.

Here are a few spots you can reduce air leaks:

  • Check the caulk around windows, and replace if necessary.
  • Check the weather stripping around exterior doors, including any sliding glass doors. If you have none, or if there are spots where it has torn or cracked, you will want to replace it. This can also be an easy weekend project.
  • Keep windows and exterior doors closed, including when you are carrying items in such as groceries after a shopping trip. Close the door each time you enter and only keep it open for as long as you need to walk through it. This habit can help keep warm air outside and cool air inside.

Change Your Air Filter

No lies here … how often do you actually replace your air filter? A dirty air filter for your HVAC unit means that it has to work harder to push air through a filter where the airflow has been blocked by dirt, dust and grime.

We’ve heard advice from replacing it every six months (really?!) to monthly. And advice to replace it every month in winter and every three months in summer – although it seems that advice would work better for colder climates north of us.

Texas is hot. And often dusty. That’s why we recommend that you replace your air filter at least every other month – and at some times you may need to do so monthly.

This is may only be a small savings, but it helps add up over time with all of the other savings you will be adding over time.

Use Blackout Curtains

We love our windows for letting in natural light. The only problem is, in the summer this also means letting in heat (and energy) – even when you have very well-insulated windows. The bright sun will still warm up whatever it touches in your home – the floor, the wall, the furniture, even the air.

This warmth means it takes more energy for your air conditioner to cool.

Adding blackout curtains, and closing them during the day when you are not home (or when the sun outside is at its hottest) dramatically reduces the heat and sunlight coming into your home. This means that your air conditioner isn’t having to fight quite so hard to keep your home cool.

Install a Programmable Thermostat

If your home is a bit older, it may not be equipped with a programmable thermostat. Making this upgrade doesn’t cost a lot, but can positively impact your heating and cooling costs.

Instead of setting your temperature to one solid point all day and night (unless you’re manually changing it repeatedly), you can program your thermostat to make common adjustments for you.

For example, if you’re not home most of the day, it also doesn’t make sense for you to be keeping the temperature really chilly. Your air conditioner is meant to provide comfort to you and your family – and if no one is there, you’re providing comfort to your furniture, floors and walls – which, unless you live in a museum, probably don’t need that level of controlled atmosphere.

Even our pets usually don’t require the save level of cooling that we do.

A programmable thermostat lets you automatically make adjustments based upon who is home, when, and what they will likely be doing during that time. Another small way to add up savings on your electric bill.

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