Central air conditioning units keep your entire house cool and comfortable in the summer. However, your comfort comes at a price because keeping an air conditioner running all the time uses a lot of electricity. No doubt you've seen your electricity bills increase in the summer and want to save some money by using the air conditioner only when you need it. But what does that usage look like?
Are You Overworking Your Air Conditioner?
First, consider your current habits when it comes to setting your air conditioner. If it is 90 degrees outside but you have your air conditioner working overtime to generate a 65-degree interior temperature, your electricity bill will certainly be high. Your air conditioner has to work longer and harder to maintain large gaps between indoor and outdoor air temperature.
Instead, consider setting the air conditioner temperature to a higher degree until you truly no longer feel comfortable. Then, back down a degree or two and keep the air conditioner set there. For example, you might find that you can easily withstand an 78-degree temperature in your home when the outside temperature is in the 90s.
Additionally, using overhead fans or portable fans to keep air circulating can make a difference in keeping your home comfortable. These appliances still use electricity but far less than a central air conditioner, so you can still enjoy saving money on your bill. Finally, if you hardly ever use certain rooms, close their vents.
Programming Your Air Conditioner to Your Schedule
Once you know how high you can set your air conditioner while still feeling comfortable, it's time to realize that there's no reason to keep your home cool when no one is in it. You can use the thermostat control panel to schedule times when the air conditioner can turn off completely, such as while you're at work. Then, program the thermostat to turn the air conditioner back on about an hour before you come home so that you can still walk into a comfortable atmosphere later.
Each thermostat control panel will have a slightly different procedure for programming the air conditioner this way. Consult the owner's manual for instructions on your specific model.
How Much Can You Save?
Because energy prices and average temperatures vary tremendously from region to region, it is impossible to know exactly how much money you could save by changing the way you use your central air conditioner. The best way to determine savings is to make a few changes for the next billing cycle and see how that translates to your next bill.
Another way to see how much you are saving is to compare your monthly bill to the same month's bill from the previous year. This is helpful, as you may still be using your air conditioning in September, but not in October. Comparing September bills after taking measures to lower your electric bill will give you a clearer picture for the weather that occurs during that month.
- Contrary to what may seem to be common sense, an air conditioner that is running on high uses power more efficiently than one running on low.
- The use of ceiling fans can make a huge difference in the temperature of your home. They tend to use less energy than air conditioners, and they circulate the air more efficiently. Use the two together for the best results.
Cathy Habas has been interested in personal finance from the age of 12, when she started doing odd jobs and saving money. Cathy also understands first-hand the unique financial concerns of non-profits and self-employed individuals. Her finance articles have appeared on sites like The Lending Mag, Len Penzo, and Business and Finance, among others.