From Engineering on May 12, 2011 in Air Conditioning & Heating
Running your HVAC accounts for more than half of all energy costs in your home. Like most homes in the U.S., yours probably relies on the air conditioner to keep things nice and cool during warmer parts of the year. But as summer quickly approaches, it makes sense to assess your HVAC system and learn ways to cut costs. Unfortunately, air conditioners use a great deal of energy and are expensive to operate. They also pose risks to the environment.
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Below are a few alternatives to enhance your current air conditioning system, as well as ways to run your A/C more effectively. The appropriateness of each method depends on the climate in your area. So, consider these ideas and consult with an expert on ways to minimize energy use, save yourself money by reducing your utility bills, and rest easy knowing you’ve done your part to help the environment.
One way to cut energy costs this summer is through evaporative cooling, or using water to cool outdoor air that enters the house. This process, also known as swamp cooling, is utilized mostly in areas with dry climates. Evaporative cooling systems not only draw outdoor air into the home and cool it as it enters, they also push built-up heat out of homes through windows.
The concept behind evaporative coolers is a departure from standard air conditioners, which recirculate the same air in a home. In contrast, evaporative coolers continually push warm, stale air out of the home and bring in fresh, cooler air.
Long confined to industrial and commercial settings, absorption coolers are now available for residential use. Absorption cooling works by using heat, generated by solar-heated water or natural gas, rather than electricity as its energy source. Otherwise, absorption coolers function similarly to air conditioners.
Using ventilation is, without question, the most energy efficient, cost-effective way to cool your home. With natural ventilation, opening windows and doors to capitalize on air pressure can help transport air throughout your house and provide a soothing, cooling breeze.
Other forms of household ventilation use fans, which are more energy efficient than air conditioners, to circulate air and regulate temperature. Ventilating a home can be a good approach when the outdoor air is mild, but has limited application in areas with particularly hot, humid climates.
How to Run Your Air Conditioner Cost-Effectively
If a new cooling system doesn’t work for your budget or climate, there are some easy, inexpensive ways to reduce energy consumption and lower your utility bills while still using an air conditioner. Indeed, when used responsibly, an air conditioner can be part of an economical and eco-friendly approach to cooling a home. Consider these strategies in operating your air conditioning unit as the temperatures begin to rise.
- Filters: Purchase good quality filters and change them regularly in accordance with the manufacturer’s specifications.
- Turn off units: If you have multiple units, turn off the units in rooms that aren’t used regularly. Or, simply install a programmable thermostat, which adjusts indoor temperatures automatically.
- Adapt A/C settings accordingly: Don’t leave the air conditioner set at the same level every day. As the outdoor temperature fluctuates, your need to cool the inside air should fluctuate as well.
- Caulking: Make sure to maintain the caulk around the exterior of your home. This keeps cool air in and summer heat out.
- Weatherstripping: Ensure that weatherstripping has been properly installed and remains in good condition.
- Fans: Use fans whenever possible. Ceiling fans, portable fans, whole house fans, attic fans…whatever you have, use it!
- Interior design elements: Summer window treatments are usually installed to look great, but they also have cost-savings potential as well. Particularly in areas that get sun exposure during the hottest parts of the day, make use of your shutters, blinds, curtains and drapes to limit the amount of solar heat that enters the home.
George Rollins is a home enthusiast at FurnaceCompare.com, a site that has extensive information on brands and models of furnaces, boilers, air conditioners and heat pumps. FurnaceCompare also publishes consumer reviews and tips on choosing HVAC contractors. George has a passion for educating consumers on home improvements, as he feels that the right information can help consumers choose more wisely.