With the cost of energy rising, we're all looking for ways to make our appliances more efficient -- especially our heating and cooling systems. The Department of Energy reports that heating and cooling bills are typically some of the biggest household utility expenses.
In hot months, this means making our air conditioning unit work at its most efficient to maximize the cost of running it. But don't wait until the heat outside is sweltering to check if your A/C is in tiptop shape and set to efficiently cool your home. Get ahead of the heat and give your A/C a spring cleaning to maximize its efficiency.
With the heat ready to ramp up around the corner, here are 10 easy tips to make your A/C -- and how you use it -- more efficient, and to maximize energy for better coolness and cost.
--Vacuum your vents. The Central Heating and Air Conditioning Co. website suggests that for consistent and efficient airflow, it's important to vacuum debris and dust away for your air conditioner's indoor supply vents. Keep away anything that could block the vents, such as furniture, curtains or blinds.
--Install a new A/C filter. Follow your A/C manufacturer's recommendations on how often to change the filter. A great tip is when you put in a new filter, write the date on the filter itself. Months later, you will know exactly how long the filter has been in use and if it's due for a change.
--Keep blinds and curtains closed. As the sun hits your windows directly, you can keep some of the heat outside by drawing your curtains and closing your blinds, which helps your air conditioner manage cool temps through your thermostat setting more efficiently.
--Keep heat-producing appliances and your thermostat apart. Heat around your thermostat will make it think it needs to cool your home more in order to reach your A/C temperature setting, which means your A/C system is working harder and running longer than it needs to -- and costing you more money.
--Up Your thermostat a few degrees. In hot months, adjusting your thermostat (SET ITAL ) up by 5 to 8 degrees can actually save energy and cost. You don't have to keep your home frigid in hot months, just at a coolness level that's comfortable for you.
--Install a pre-programmable thermostat. Automatically adjust the temperature for different parts of the day, such as when you're at home and need it to be cool, or at work and you aren't using the A/C. It's OK for the internal temperature to be somewhat warmer to help you maximize the efficiency and cost of your system.
--Clean your condenser unit. If you have an outdoor condenser unit, keep it clear of debris and shrubs, and keep it clean to optimize its effectiveness. Be sure to have it professionally deep-cleaned ahead of each summer season.
--Insulate exposed ductwork. Ductwork that runs through spaces that are not air-conditioned can lead to the cooler, conditioned air escaping from your home, which means your A/C has to work harder to keep the temperature at a cool setting. Before the hot season in your area, schedule a professional maintenance check and ask them to check for ductwork air leaks to repair.
--Be smart about using your oven and dryer. A dryer draws warm air into your home, while an oven adds heat to your house, both of which make it harder for your A/C to maintain a cool setting. Cook less in the summer, and take advantage of salads and no-cook meals that are also healthier for you. Consider buying an outdoor drying rack, clothesline or rotary drying/clothes line that spins in the wind, using the sun and the breeze to dry your laundry in the most environmentally friendly way.
--Use a dehumidifier. A dehumidifier is a great investment. When the temperature rises, switch it on, as removing the moisture of the humidity from your home will make it feel more comfortable. This will also help keep your A/C from boosting on more than it needs to. Keep your internal air temperature at the recommended 78 degrees for maximum efficiency and manageable energy cost.