First off, if you are uncomfortable with anything below, call in the professionals! Second, there are some “risky” things below. Do it at your own risk.. I am not a professional but all these could help you! 10 ways to keep your home efficiently cool and save money as the summer heat comes, the electric bill rises and you lose money due to inefficiencies. I suggest checking for heat infiltration (or cool air loss) using an infrared camera if possible. Your local home improvement stores may rent these and using them can help you quickly see where you have issues! You may need to insulate better, caulk around a window, or even replace some windows, but you could be throwing away money because of these issues. These are 10 ways to minimize the loss of cooler air from your home and keep you cool, and I think #10 may surprise you, as it is something NOT TO DO, that many may do!
- Change the air conditioner filter: It is a chore so easy that it often is overlooked. The key with your air conditioner is airflow. The air is going to push through the filter and the more it is restricted the longer it will take to distribute the colder air around the home. Most filters need to be changed once a month. Which filters you use is up to you. There are cheap ones that could run you a couple of dollars, or more allergy trapping filters. You could even look into reusable filters as a long term investment, but you will need to clean them regularly as well. Filters have a lifetime on them, most 1 to 3 months. Check the filter monthly no matter what the expected life span. You may find it is very dirty and if so you should replace it sooner. The less the AC fans have to work to get the air to flow, the better, but make sure you put filters on the system.
- Use or install ceiling fans. The “wind chill” effect is great and you should be able to leave the AC thermostat to a higher temperature. There are varying studies over the internet and they tout savings as much as $10 a month per degree raised on the thermostat! That can be significant over time! More about some facts of what ceiling fans can do, here!
- Get a programmable thermostat and make certain you are using it! Often they are underutilized and replacing your current thermostat is not as expensive as it once was. Why keep the house cold when you are not home? It is simple to set up schedules for the week and weekend. Some thermostats cost less than $20.
- Blinds can help tremendously. Putting shuttering blinds or shades on windows can really help keep your home cooler. This will help block external solar energy during the days which can keep areas of the home cooler and require less to cool it down. There are cheap options, like Walmart, that has blinds for a few dollars each. The initial investment may take a little while to pay you back, but it really can be worth it if you live in a very sunny home!
- Strategically plant a tree. You have to make certain it is a deciduous tree that will lose its leaves in the winter and allow the sun in but has leafs in the summer to provide shade! The shade will help cut down on solar heat which means a cooler home. It is important to plant it in front of an area that faces the southern sky.
- Tint windows? This may be a gamble on the benefit and really depends on the home. Friends of ours had huge windows and decided to tint the one’s that faced the southern sky as they received sun from sunrise to sunset. It was a light tinting so the view was not limited, but it cut back on solar radiation into a big living space in a big way. You can DIY with some window film and some patience. Savings realized can vary, but, as was the case with my friend’s home, can really be worth it.
- Seal leaky ductwork. Air could be leaking to areas that do not need to be cooled. In our townhome, we had some serious leakage around ductwork that was near the AC. Some Air Duct tape and some putty helped deal with the leaks. It was not too difficult to do this and the savings will be realized as the air is carried from the utility room to areas that needed the cooler air.
- Plug gaskets. My wife was shocked one evening to feel air flowing in through a socket near the bed one evening. You can get plug gaskets at your local hardware and these can cut back on wasted cold air seeping through cracks. They are not expensive and easy to install. In our first home, the amount of drafts through the receptacles was significant so it was one of the first things I did after we moved in. You can also caulk the plates on the wall as a way to stop drafts, but it will be a challenge to pull them off if you ever need to.
- Insulate Condenser lines. Look at the outdoor AC, and check the lines to make certain they are well insulated. This is a cheap way to prevent cold condensation that the system is creating from warming leaking outdoors.
- Do NOT clean the AC condenser? Recently, I have read and found a study that showed that this is actually not the best idea! The outdoor coils likely have dirt and debris on them. But, the result of the study concluded that not only is the benefit small, but there could also actually be a benefit to NOT CLEANING IT! YES! NOT CLEANING IT! That being said, if you see debris and other material on the coils that would make it so there was no air flowing, I would consider cleaning it, but you may want to wait for some cooler weather first (like really early morning) as you will need some downtime for cleaning it! FIRST THINGS FIRST! Disconnect the power to the unit. Turn the thermostat to off and outside a fuse box or a pull-type breaker box which is located by the unit. PULL the circuit. Now that it is disconnected, take a vacuum and clean the coils CAREFULLY with a brush attachment. These fins are super delicate. You may have to remove a protective cage from around the fins to do it. Take time to straighten any of the fins that could be bent. You can use a knife or something similar. BE CAREFUL, and patient. and do not insert the knife far into the fins (1/2”) and also the fins can be quite sharp. Take the Fan off the top of the unit (may need someone to hold it) and get all the debris out from the inside and vacuum the fins there as well. Lastly, use a hose and spray the fins off. DO NOT use high power spraying, just medium, and wait for the water to look clean. Connect the fan, and the cage, and then plug back in the electrical. Two precautions 1. If you disconnected electrical while the compressor was running, be certain you wait 5 minutes before you restart it. 2. If this whole process took more than four hours, keep the thermostat off for 24 hours and then turn it back on.
Hopefully these tips have been helpful! Stay cool, and hopefully you find some ways to save some money!