Give Your Air Conditioner A Hand: Techniques For Reducing Energy Costs While Staying Cool

Many Americans expect their air conditioner to keep them cool and comfy during the heat of summer. They may also worry about the high energy costs running an air conditioner can cause. While new energy-efficient air conditioners aren't the energy hogs their ancestors were, they still account for a rising energy costs during hot weather. If you have been limiting your AC use because of concerns over energy use, you will be happy to know there are some things you can do to make your home more comfortable without raising your energy bill. Try these tips for taking the load off your air conditioner and lightening the load on your wallet as well.

Eliminate Heat Sources

Limiting the introduction of heat into your home will help your air conditioner run more efficiently and probably make you feel more comfortable, too.

  • Sunlight: Sunshine elevates moods and helps to lighten the home, but let's face it: sunlight adds heat to your home too. Blocking the heat from the sun is vital to keeping your home cool in the summer. Consider these methods of blocking heat from the sun.
    • Climbing Vines:  Plant climbing vines, like morning glories or clematis, in front of windows where the sun beats into your home. They will block the rays and cool your home, while giving you beautiful blooms that can be viewed from both the inside and outside of your home. This works well on windows where you aren't interested in the view. If seeing out is important, try planting ivy or Virginia creeper and let it vine up the outside of your home. This will shade the outside walls and prevent the heat from radiating inside your home.
    • Solar Window Treatments: If you thought the only window treatments to keep the heat from the sun from entering through your windows were heavy, insulated curtains that leave your home dark and dreary inside, you will love solar window treatments. They are designed to allow visible spectrum light inside while blocking UV light that can cause your home to heat up. You can purchase curtains, shades, window film and even window screens that block UV rays and reflect the heat away from your home while still letting visible spectrum light inside. Look for solar curtains or shades in your local home improvement center or curtain shop. The may be sold as Green Living or Environmentally Friendly products.
    • Awnings: Installing awnings over your windows or glass doors is another convenient way to reduce the amount of heat from the sun. Because they create shade near the windows you will lose some light, but your home will feel cooler and more comfortable.
  • Appliances: It is easy to overlook common household appliances as a source of heat, especially those you use every day. Consider these heat-producing appliances when looking for sources of heat in your home.
    • Electronics & Technology: You may not think about the amount of heat generated from computers, TVs and game consoles, but they can contribute to the heat in your home. Limit their use or at least turn them off when they are not in use.
    • Kitchen Appliances: Coffee pots, toasters and other cooking appliances also add heat to the home. Limit their use to early in the morning or late evening when the house is at its coolest. Opt for the microwave or grill dinner outside to help keep the kitchen cool.
    • Bathroom Appliances: Curling irons and hair dryers are common sources of added heat in the bathroom. Try letting your hair dry naturally and finishing it off on the cool setting on your hairdryer to minimize heat in the bathroom.
    • Laundry Room Appliances: The dryer can introduce a lot of heat to your home, even when it is vented outside. Try hanging clothes on the clothesline to dry. Otherwise limit the use of the dryer to late nights and early mornings. Likewise, irons and steamers that produce heat should be used during the coolest part of the day.

Control the Humidity

Humid air is often a problem during the summer. It makes the air feel hot and sticky and much warmer than it actually is. To help out your air conditioner, and make your home more comfortable, take measures to keep the humidity low.

  • Avoid Wet Fabrics: Hang wet towels and clothes outside to dry. If you don't have a clothesline, hang them over the porch rail or use a portable drying rack on the deck or porch.
  • Avoid Steamed Foods: Steamed veggies may be the latest health boom, but cooking them in your kitchen during hot weather is a no-no. Likewise, restrict boiling liquids.
  • Use Exhaust Fans: Hot, steamy air from the bathroom will raise the humidity level in your entire home. Instruct all family members to use the exhaust fan to whisk the moist air outside. Likewise, use your exhaust fan if you must cook inside. Installing one in the laundry room will also help to vent the moisture from doing laundry.

Your air conditioning unit should be serviced at least once a year to ensure that it is operating at its optimal performance. Your local HVAC contractor will clean and inspect the unit during a regular maintenance call and offer suggestions for keeping it running smoothly. For more information, contact an HVAC company like Elite Heating, Cooling and Plumbing.