How to Save Money on Air Conditioning

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For most Americans, cooling off on a hot summer day is as simple as flipping a switch or adjusting the thermostat. According to data from the 2020 Residential Energy Consumption Survey, 88% of U.S. households use an air conditioning unit to cool their homes. Of those, around 75% used central air.

Unfortunately, this convenience comes with significantly higher utility costs. According to Forbes, running a central AC unit eight hours a day can cost up to $630 a month — a sizable home ownership expense for many families.

Costs rise during the summer months and in states with consistently high temperatures. While AC accounts for about 12% of the average American’s electricity use, it rises to 27% in states with hot-humid climates.

You can reduce your electric bill by running your AC less, but doing could shrink your comfort level, and it can be dangerous for people with certain health conditions. If you wonder how to reduce your air conditioning bills without sacrificing comfort, there are a few things you can try.

Try the following tips to save money on utility bills and keep more money in your pocket.

1. Service Your AC Regularly

AC units need regular maintenance to function at their best. Regular wear and tear on the unit’s components demand a once-a-year look from an AC service professional. Plus, contaminants like dust, dirt, and paper dander. all accumulate within your system. They reduce system efficiency and force it to use more power to gain the same cooling effects.

Getting your AC unit professionally serviced will cost you some money up-front, but it will yield significant savings in the long run. A well-maintained AC system will use less power to cool your home and will need fewer repairs and replacements over its lifetime.

2. Seal the Leaks in Your Home

Have you felt a draft in your home lately? If so, fixing it could lower your AC bills. Any tiny gap around your windows or doors can leak cold air and make your AC work harder. Sealing gaps keep the cool air where it belongs and makes it easier for your AC to maintain a consistent temperature in your home.

You should be able to find most leaks with careful visual inspection. If your budget allows, consider scheduling a home inspection from a professional technician. Professionals have the expertise and tools needed to find even hard-to-spot leaks and will help you identify any further improvements you could make to conserve energy.

3. Use Ceiling Fans

If your home has ceiling fans, using them more often could save you a pretty penny. These fans can cost as little as 1 cent an hour to run. In contrast, running a central AC unit can cost 36 cents an hour or more.

Ceiling fans cool the room they’re in and circulate cooler air to the rest of your home. This spreads your AC’s output evenly across various rooms and keeps it from struggling to keep faraway areas cool.

4. Switch to a Smart Thermostat

Smart thermostats save homeowners an average of 8% on their cooling and heating bills. They feature technology that measures the temperature in your home throughout the day. You can program them to maintain the temperature at a set threshold. As your home warms up and cools down, the thermostat automatically adjusts your AC to compensate.

Using a smart thermostat minimizes your power consumption and ensures that your home stays comfortable. By shutting the AC off when it’s not needed, a thermostat makes the most of every watt.

5. Avoid Using the Oven

To save on your AC bills in the summer, stay away from the oven. Ovens generate significant amounts of heat, some of which escapes into your home. The excess heat forces your AC to work harder to keep the temperature where you want it.

If you must use your oven, try to do it in the evening when temperatures are cooler. That way, you’re less likely to overwork your AC. Also, depending on your electric company’s policies, you may be eligible for a discounted off-peak rate on any extra power you consume.

6. Use Your Basement

Because hot air is less dense than cold air, heat rises in indoor spaces. That makes the basement the best place to be during warm months. Spending time there will reduce your need for AC without sacrificing your comfort.

Set up your TV, game consoles, books, art supplies, or other hobby equipment in the basement to make the space as appealing as possible. You’ll be surprised how rarely you reach for the thermostat dial!

7. Close Blinds and Shut Curtains

When the sun shines through a window, it heats all objects in the room. The collective temperature increase caused by this phenomenon is called solar heat gain, and it can make a room feel much warmer than it would if it wasn’t exposed to the sun’s rays.

To stop this from happening, close the blinds and curtains on as many windows as possible, especially south-facing ones. This will block most of the sun’s heat and keep it from making your home feel even warmer.

8. Plant Large, Leafy Trees Around Your Home

Large, leafy trees around the outside of your home block sunlight and reduce heat transfer. With less heat entering the house, your AC won’t have to work as hard to keep you comfortable. The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that shade from trees around your home can increase your AC’s efficiency by up to 10%.

But trees don’t grow overnight. It’ll take time for saplings to grow into established trees that are large enough to be effective. You can always transplant large trees, but that can be a budget-buster.

9. Replace Your Lighting

Replace old bulbs with newer LED bulbs. Older lightbulbs often use incandescent lighting, an inefficient form of light that produces excess heat.

While single bulbs don’t produce enough heat to make a difference in the internal home temperature, heat gain from all the bulbs in your home combined can be significant. As a bonus, LED bulbs are more energy-efficient, meaning the switch will produce even greater savings.

What Is the Best Temperature for the AC To Save Money?

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, 78 degrees Fahrenheit is the ideal temperature setting to save money. Setting your thermostat to 78 will keep you reasonably comfortable without using too much power.

If 78 degrees is too warm for you, try raising the temperature by a single degree each day until it’s too hot to continue. You’ll save 2-3% on your energy bills each time.

More Ways To Save Money on Home Expenses

Still spending more than you’d like? Try out these other ways to cut your expenses:

  • Shop around for better rates on your homeowner’s insurance. Many insurers give discounts for customers who pick a higher deductible or buy other insurance products through them. You can earn discounts for installing security measures for your home, including deadbolt locks, a burglar alarm, or cameras.
  • Pay off credit card debt. Most credit cards charge hefty interest rates on outstanding balances. By paying off your debt as soon as possible, you’ll pay less in interest fees and keep more money in your pocket.
  • Try making a household budget. Budgeting helps you keep track of where your money is going each month and make sure there’s enough left over to save.

About The Author

Alan Schmadtke

Alan Schmadtke is the founder and president of MacGuffin Publishing, a content marketing firm in Central Florida. Prior to that, Alan was chief people officer at Launch That, for whom he spearheaded employee training and development, including seminars about the importance of retirement savings and adult money management. He also has vast experience as a reporter, editor and leader at the Orlando Sentinel. He lives in Cape Canaveral.


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