According to the Department of Energy, half or more of your total utility cost comes from heating and cooling. That means central air conditioning is part of the biggest expense for typical United States households.
As the warmer weather is quickly approaching, it’s time to make sure your AC is running as efficiently as possible. Here are some simple, no-cost things you can do to get the most out of your air conditioning system and keep your bills down.
There are lots of things you can do for little or no money to improve the efficiency of your central AC system, and we’ve chosen eight of the best for you so you can make sure you’re not spending more than necessary on your utility bills as the weather warms up and the AC starts running more often.
- Keep the area around the outdoor condenser unit clean. The efficiency of your whole system can be affected if the condenser isn’t working effectively. Debris can especially accumulate over the fall and winter, so a thorough cleaning before summer is important. You can do some of this maintenance yourself, but if you suspect your condenser unit needs a more thorough cleaning, you should consult a professional.
- Vacuum the indoor vents and keep them unblocked. If your indoor vents are blocked, the system must work harder to circulate air. Move blinds, furniture, and other items away from the vents and give them a vacuuming every now and then to maintain good airflow.
- Set your thermostat moderately. Setting your thermostat just about 5–8 degrees cooler in the winter and warmer in the summer will help save energy, and therefore keep your bills down. A programmable thermostat is especially energy-efficient, as you can automatically adjust the temperature for different times of day, such as when you’re regularly out of the house for a while.
- Move heat-producing appliances away from the thermostat. If you have lamps or other appliances that produce heat near your thermostat, it will think that the air in your home is warmer than it truly is, so your system will work harder than it needs to in order to maintain your actual desired temperature.
- Close blinds and curtains during the day. Direct sun coming through your windows will heat your home a surprising amount. Keeping blinds closed and curtains drawn during the day, especially the ones that get direct afternoon sunlight, will help your house stay cooler and let your system work a little less.
- Clear the air conditioning drain line. You can help maintain efficiency and prevent leaks by making sure the system’s drain line is clear. You can usually find it near the indoor cooling coil, typically above the furnace in the basement or your utility room. You can flush it out by pouring in one cup of chlorine bleach, followed by a gallon of water to rinse it out.
- Try not to use the oven or dryer at the hottest times of day. The oven is, of course, a heat source, and some of that heat escapes out into your home. The dryer likewise also draws warm air into the house. Saving these tasks for the cooler times of day will help keep your AC system from working overtime to keep your home cool.
- Make sure exposed ductwork is insulated. Leaks are a big source of inefficiency. Check that any ductwork that is running through an unconditioned area like a basement or crawl space is sealed properly so that your conditioned air doesn’t leak out. If you spot an obvious leak, you can fix it with UL181-rated duct-sealing tape, but it’s also a good idea to have a professional check all the ductwork during routine maintenance and make sure that it’s properly insulated.
As you can see, there are plenty of simple things you can do to keep your HVAC system running smoothly without having to spend a lot of money. With a basic understanding of how your system works and keeping things clean will go a long way to saving you money on your energy bills, even in the heat of summer.
By following these tips, as well as having a professional do regular routine maintenance, you’ll save money in the long run, not only by improving overall efficiency, but by reducing the chances of the system developing a serious problem.