As the temperatures rise across Greater Denver, we’re turning on our air conditioners to keep our homes cool.
According to Energy Star®, American households spend an annual average of about $2,000 on their energy bills, nearly half of that on heating and cooling costs. We want our families to be comfortable through the long days of summer, but the energy costs can really add up.
The good news: there’s a lot we can do to save money on cooling costs. And by saving energy, we’ll help save the environment too.
Keep the Heat Outside
Summer heat kept out of your home is heat you won’t have to pay to remove. Save your air conditioner some effort by keeping the heat outside.
- Close blinds and curtains during the day, especially in southern and western facing rooms. According to the Department of Energy, "medium-colored draperies with white-plastic backings can reduce heat gains by 33%."
- Apply low-emissivity (low-E) film to large windows that get a lot of sun. This tinted film can reflect 70-80% of solar heat.
- Seal your home with weatherstripping on doors and windows, caulk for any air leaks, and appropriate insulation in your attic and walls.
- Vent heat from your attic. Ridge vents and attic fans remove heat absorbed by your roof before it can get into the rest of your home.
Don’t Add to the Heat
Many of our indoor conveniences put out a lot of heat. Smart summer modifications to your daily routine can save you the doubled energy costs of adding and removing heat.
- Replace incandescent light bulbs with high-efficiency LED or CFL bulbs. According to Energy Star®, about 90% of the electricity used by incandescent is converted to heat rather than light.
- Cookout on the grill more often and enjoy cool summer meals. Stoves and ovens add a lot of heat to your home.
- Run the bathroom vent fan during and for 15 minutes after hot showers to send all that hot, humid air outside.
- Consider air-drying your clothes. Dryers put out a lot of heat. If you use your dryer, make sure its exhaust is properly vented to the outside of your home.
- Run your dishwasher at night, when your HVAC system isn’t working so hard. Skip the heated dry cycle, and let your dishes air-dry.
Keep the Air Moving
Keep your indoor air moving with ceiling fans and floor fans. You’ll be able to raise your thermostat up to 4°F while feeling just as comfortable. Just remember to change the direction of your ceiling fans with the seasons: blowing down in the warm months and up in the cold months.
Let Nature Help
Your HVAC system doesn’t have to do all the work of cooling your home. Let nature help.
- When nights are cool and dry, open your windows and let nature cool your home. (You may need to skip this tip if you or your family suffer from allergies. Better to let your HVAC system filter out the allergens.)
- If you have a whole-house fan, run it during cool and dry hours to pull hot air out of your home and draw in cool air through open windows below.
- If it’s raining or humidity is high, you’re better off keeping your windows closed and leaving your whole-house fan off. Pulling humid air into your home from outside will make you feel warmer. And it will force your HVAC system to work harder to cool and dehumidify your home.
- Shade your home with trees and shrubs. According to the Alliance for Community Trees, "just 3-4 shade trees located strategically around a house can cut summer cooling costs by 30-50%."
Help Your HVAC System Save You Money
A modern, high-efficiency air conditioner can keep your home cool much more efficiently than systems made even just 10 years ago. But it will do its job best with a little help from you and a qualified HVAC maintenance provider.
- Use a programmable or smart thermostat set to run your cooling system less when no one is home.
- Change your air filter monthly during the summer months, and at least every three months year-round.
- Clean your outdoor unit and keep it free of debris that can block air flow and potentially damage your equipment.
- Make sure that all your home’s vents are unobstructed. Move any furniture that is blocking the free flow of air.
- Have your HVAC system inspected and tuned up by a qualified service provider. Annual AC maintenance can save you 15% on your cooling costs. And it may help you avoid costly repairs.
- Ask a qualified HVAC inspector to find and fix any leaks in your ductwork.
If your HVAC system is more than 10 years old, consider upgrading. New high-efficiency systems can save you big on your cooling bills.
Don’t Close Off Vents
You might have heard a common tip to close the vents in any unused rooms. It makes a certain intuitive sense: why cool that empty guest room? But the air flow of your HVAC system is carefully balanced to cool your home efficiently with all the vents open. Closing off vents raises the pressure in your duct work, leading to more duct leakage and forcing the system to work harder.
If you want to save on your cooling costs by not cooling unused spaces in your home, there are two better solutions.
- Add zone controls to your existing HVAC system. Installed by a qualified HVAC service provider, these controls let you cool your home comfortably where you need it while using less energy where you don’t.
Install ductless mini split air conditioners to cool individual rooms efficiently. Each unit has its own thermostat, letting you control cooling room-by-room.