Tips for Lowering Your Central Air Conditioner's Energy Usage

  • Set your thermostat at 78 F or higher. Each degree setting below 78 F will increase energy consumption by approximately 8%. Be careful, however, that if you're A/C is oversized the diminished run-time from raising the thermostat setting may result in too-high indoor humidity in some locations.
  • Use bath and kitchen fans sparingly when the air conditioner is operating to avoidpulling warm, moist air into your home.
  • Inspect and clean both the indoor and outdoor coils. The indoor coil in your air conditioner acts as a magnet for dust because it is constantly wetted during the cooling season. Dirt build-up on the indoor coil is the single most common cause of poor efficiency. The outdoor coil must also be checked periodically for dirt build-up and cleaned if necessary.
  • Check the refrigerant charge. The circulating fluid in your air conditioner is a special refrigerant gas that is put in when the system is installed. If the system is overcharged or undercharged with refrigerant, it will not work properly. You will need a service contractor to check the fluid and adjust it appropriately.
  • Reduce the cooling load by using cost-effective conservation measures. For example, effectively shade east and west windows. When possible, delay heat- generating activities, such as cooking and dishwashing, until evening on hot days.
  • Over most of the cooling season, keep the house closed tight during the day. Don't let in unwanted heat and humidity. Ventilate at night either naturally or with fans.

The average U.S. household spends about $1,300 each year on utility bills. While there are a number of factors that affect energy consumption - efficiency of major appliances, thermostat settings, etc. - it is possible to make a home more energy efficient, creating the potential for big savings on future bills.

Simply by choosing Energy Star-rated appliances and making energy-saving improvements to your home, you could save as much as 30 percent on your energy bills. Here are some basic tips:

  • Have your heating/cooling (HVAC) system maintained by a professional.
  • Between service visits, follow the manufacturer's routine maintenance directions.
  • If you are purchasing a new HVAC system, look for the Energy Star label to get the highest efficiency available hi the market.
  • Check the filters in your HVAC unit. If they're the permanent kind, they should be cleaned with mild detergent every 30 to 60 days. Replaceable filters should be replaced just as often.
    • If the HVAC system is running, keep the windows and doors closed.
    • Caulk and weatherstrip to close air gaps.
  • During cooling season, don't wash/dry clothes during the warmest times of day (late morning and afternoon).
One of the reasons why a new system may be a good long-term investment is that technological improvements, combined with governmental regulations, have led to more energy-efficient appliances. Even the least efficient systems currently available in the U.S. will generally cost less to operate than a system that was installed 10 years ago. Most manufacturers offer higher-efficiency models which will save you even more in utility bills. However, these systems generally cost more initially, so it's a good idea to look for the right balance between first cost and long-term savings. Today's heating/cooling systems are far more efficient than those sold just 10 years ago.