By now, we’re all sweating out summer’s simply sweltering dog days and seeking refuge in back-to-school shopping simply for its free commercial grade AC. But there’s only so many Trapper Keepers to buy. We’ll eventually have to go home and that means facing mounting air conditioning bills. But staying sheen-free doesn’t have to be so painful; in fact, by following a couple of rules of thumb, we can drop our BTUs significantly, and do a little better toward the planet besides (which is the coolest part). Ken Dyson of B & B Air Conditioning and Heating of Annapolis shares what his company’s learned over the last 50 years about being AC-wise:
1. Keep the thermostat at (or above) 74. "It’s a good, comfortable setting where it doesn’t use too much electricity," advises Dyson. In fact, every degree you decrease your setting above 78 can save you 6 to 8 percent on your cooling bill for the season.
2. Go hotter when you’re gone. When leaving for work, up your regular setting 5 to 10 degrees.
3. Don’t turn off the air completely during your out-of-house hours in your efforts to save. "If you let the temperature in your house raise too high, it will run way too long to take the heat and humidity, and you’ll lose all your savings," says Dyson.
4. If the humidity’s high, be patient. ACs take out the humidity first before they even begin to drop the temperature.
5. Locate your window units well. Installing your window unit in a shady window can save you major ducats.
6. Add other methods. Recognize that the AC unit shouldn’t be the only focus for your chill-out efforts: Turn off any lights you don’t need on, pull the shades and curtains to keep the heat out, and seal doors and windows to avoid leakage: "Heat travels from hot to cold," says Dyson.
7. Buy better. Only buy an Energy Star certified unit, which signifies a machine that’s energy efficient.
8. Don’t neglect your coils and filters—regular wipe-downs are required maintenance, and the outdoor coil on window units needs a good dousing at least once a year. (In the off season, take it out of its housing, set it on the ground and hose off liberally). "The dirtier the coil, the harder the compressor has to work, and the more electricity it uses," says Dyson.
9. Think big when it comes to central air—size matters. More surface area of the coils equals greater efficiency converted hot air to cold, so don’t be daunted and clear plenty of space.
10. Check out the SEER rating when it comes to central units. The government mandated a 13 Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER) for all new units, and for every whole number increase in the SEER rating, you get a 7 percent savings on the season. Replacing your well-used 6 with a 14, for example, will garner you 49 percent savings.
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