How to Keep Cooling Costs Down During the Summer

Keeping cooling costs manageable during the dog days of summer can be a challenge. Here are a few tips to keep your checking account from feeling the heat.

Change the filter often.

Very few duct systems are air tight. The increased resistance caused by a dirty filter can make your air-conditioner pull in more air through any cracks and crevices in the return air duct system. If your return is in the attic, that means it’s pulling in extremely hot air.

Keep your condenser coil clean.

The condenser coil outside is where your air-conditioner gets rid of the heat it absorbed inside of the home. Having your unit washed regularly increases the efficiency of your air-conditioner. Also, keep shrubs, grass and leaves away from the outdoor unit.

Reroute your dryer vent.

You can’t fix stupid—but you can reroute it. If your dryer vent is close to or blowing on your outdoor unit, it’s going to cause problems. Someone else’s less-than-brilliant engineering will cause the unit to work harder and require service more often.

Don’t try to build a shade over your condenser.

The outdoor unit senses the temperature of the air moving across the coil—not how hot the metal top of the unit is when you lay your hand on it. Those are two different kinds of heat: convection and radiation. By attempting to shade your unit, you’re more likely to recirculate the very heat it’s trying to get rid of.

If you’re still set on doing this, contact the manufacturer of your air-conditioner and find out what the minimum recommended clearances are for your specific unit. If it’s a side-horizontal discharge rather than a vertical discharge, you’ll be in better shape.

Shade windows—especially on the south and/or west facing side of your home.

Blinds and/or window tint are great, but consider strategically planting trees and shrubs to shade these windows’ exposure to the sun altogether.

Don’t use the continuous fan—or circulate—setting.

When doing a Manual J load calculation, the designer will see heat loss and gain numbers from 13-50 percent—depending on where your ducts are located and how well they’re insulated. If your ducts are in your attic and you use the fan or circulate settings, you’re gaining whatever the percentage is on your particular structure. And, yes, if you’re paying attention, you also gain this percentage when your air-conditioner is running.

A properly designed, properly installed, well-insulated duct system just became kind of important, didn’t it?

Other factors that play a role in the heat gained from the attic duct system include the color of your roof and attic ventilation.

Cut down on foot traffic.

Increased traffic in and out of your doors increases the load on your air-conditioner. So try to get your friends to host the parties. Cooking and baking inside also increases the load on your air-conditioner, which makes grilling outside even more appropriate during the summer months. If you’re not in the mood for the grill, use this as an excuse to go out for dinner.

Close the door behind you when you go outside—even if you’re just going out for a moment. If a neighbor knocks on your door, join them outside or invite them in. Unless it’s a salesman, in which case we totally understand your need for a speedy retreat.

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