Learn how to save money and energy this summer.
For most homes in warm climates, air conditioning uses more electricity than any other use — up to 70 percent of a summer electric bill, according to some estimates. However, there are ways for most people to reduce this load by changing their air conditioning habits. Here are the biggest air conditioning mistakes people make, and how to reduce usage and electric bills.
Mistake No. 1: Buying Too Big an Air Conditioner
Bigger isn’t always better. Many people are inclined to get a bigger air conditioner, assuming it will make the home colder faster. However, an oversized air conditioner won’t generate uniform temperatures or reduce humidity. It will also run inefficiently by cycling on and off quickly. Of course, a unit may also be too small to properly cool the space. To properly size a new air conditioner, start with this Consumer Reports worksheet.
Mistake No. 2: Putting the Air Conditioner in a Hot Spot
It may seem convenient to put air conditioners in an unused spot on the southwest side of the house. However, such placement will make the unit work too hard. Instead, install the air conditioner in a shady spot on the east or north side of the house, where it will receive less direct sunlight.
Mistake No. 3: Hiding the Air Conditioner
The air conditioner may not be pretty, but neither are excessive summer electric bills. Don’t try to hide air conditioners behind shrubs or other plants. It will hinder ventilation, clog condenser coils and make the air conditioner run less efficiently.
Mistake No. 4: Ignoring Maintenance
Air conditioners are deceptively self-sufficient. Many homeowners ignore basic maintenance that can improve efficiency and comfort, and extend the life of the air conditioner.
Clean or replace filters at least every two months. If it is used constantly or filters a lot of dust and pet hair, check the filters more often. Also check and clean the evaporator coil once a year. Run a stiff wire through the air conditioner’s drain channels regularly, and check the window seals around room air conditioners each year.
Mistake No. 5: Leaving the Air Conditioner Running All Day
Use a programmable thermostat or individual unit timer to start cooling off the house before you get home from work. This is cheaper and more efficient than leaving the air conditioner running all day, despite rumors to the contrary.