Home Cooling Cheat Sheet | Air Conditioning & Energy Savings

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Posted June 1, 2017

It’s back-to-school time and everyone could use a good cheat sheet. Learn how to save money and energy all year long with our useful home cooling cheat sheet.

1. Update your thermostat

If you don’t have a programmable thermostat, think about getting one. They will help heat and cool your home more efficiently, saving you money and energy. You can choose a thermostat that can be schedule for single days, weekdays, and weekends:

  • 7-day
  • 5-2 day
  • 5-1-1 day
  • 1-week
  • Smart Thermostats

Unless there is always someone home to adjust the thermostat, you will want a programmable one to adjust itself for you. There are many options available to you, including “smart thermostats,” which can “learn” you schedule and adjust accordingly. Some common smart thermostats are Nest, Honeywell, Allure Eversense, and Ecobee 3.

Shop around first and then call your local heating and cooling professional to install it. You will also want to make sure that your thermostat is in the proper location.

Your thermostat should be completely level and far away from any heat sources, such as lamps, sunlight, and appliances. Otherwise, your thermostat can read the wrong temperature and turn your HVAC system on or off unnecessarily.

For maximum energy savings, we recommend setting your thermostat to 78°F while at home and no higher than 85 °F while away from the home.

2. Insulate your home

One of the biggest energy-suckers in your home is your attic and basement, where insulation can normally be dramatically improved. Look for areas around your home that could use increased insulation. A good way to test for air leaks is by holding up a lit incense stick to areas where you suspect a leak. Look around your foundation, windows, doors, baseboards, fireplaces, and where utilities enter the building. You will also want to inspect and seal leaks in your air ducts.

Make sure you are sealing cracks and gaps to prevent warm air from sneaking in and cold air from sneaking out. Use weatherproof caulk for any gaps smaller than ¼ inch and expandable foam spray for any gaps larger than that. Update the weatherstripping around your doors and windows and consider installing door sweeps to all of the doors that lead outside.

Don’t forget about the attic! Watch this video to learn how to measure the insulation levels in your attic:

Learn how much insulation you need in your attic (R-value) with this U.S. Department of Energy Insulation Guide.

3. Use Fans

Celing fans can help you save money on both cooling and heating costs. According to the S. Department of Energy, with a ceiling fan on, you can turn up the thermostat about 4°F without feeling any reduction in comfort. Just remember that ceiling fans don’t actually cool a room, they just make you feel cooler, so turn off all fans when not in the room. Fans are also useful for ventilating the home to help control humidity, mold, and moisture. If your oven and bathroom fans aren’t working, have them repaired. If you have an attic, you may also want to consider attic fans, which will ventilate the extreme temperatures outdoors, especially important if you have your HVAC unit up there.

4. Maintain your HVAC system 

There are several things are several things you can do as a homeowner to maintain your air conditioning and heating system, but the best way to ensure you have an efficient system is by scheduling professional maintenance twice a year (once in the fall for heating and once in the spring for cooling). Sign up for a home maintenance plan so you never forget this important home maintenance task. Click here for a list of things you can do to help maintain your HVAC system. If you don’t remember the last time you scheduled HVAC maintenance, now is the perfect time to schedule service.

5. Shade home, condenser unit, and windows

Solar heat gain is one of the main reasons why you need air conditioning in the first place. If you can reduce the amount of heat your home and windows receive from the sun, you won’t have to use your air conditioner as often. We recommend planting deciduous trees, which lose their leaves in the fall, around your home to add value to the property and provide valuable shade. Window shades and coverings can dramatically reduce heat gain through your windows. Consider awnings, thermal curtain, blinds, and other energy-efficient window treatments. If you live in an area where is gets cool at night, consider opening a window to let the cool air in. Make sure all windows and doors are closed during the hotter times of day.

6. Use Appliances Less and During Cooler Hours

Appliances use a lot of energy and produce quite a bit of heat. Consider air drying your clothes and dishes to reduce the amount the time your appliances are on. If you do have to use appliances, like ovens and dishwashers, consider running them in the earliest or latest hours of the day, when temperatures outside aren’t as high.

7. Change Your Light Bulbs

Another heat-producing item in your home are your light bulbs. Incandescent light bulbs can generate a lot of heat, which can sometimes cause fires if there are combustibles too close to the bulb. In fact, of all the electricity used for incandescent lights, only around 10-15% is used to generate light — the rest generates heat. Consider replacing your light bulbs with LEDs or CFLs, which use a lot less energy, resulting in a lot less heat. LEDS use aroun 3.4 BTUs/hour, while incandescents use aroun 85 BTUs/hour!

8. Consider Replacing Your Air Conditioning Unit

Your HVAC system accounts for around 50% of your home’s total energy usage, so it is important that you have an energy-efficient system that is reliable and long-lasting. If your HVAC system is older than 15 years, it might be time for a replacement. Consider the age, efficiency (SEER rating), and price of repairs when thinking about replacing your air conditioner. Choosing a new air conditioning system isn’t the hard part though — choosing your HVAC contractor is! Purchasing a new heating and cooling system is an important investment. Click here for everything you need to know before buying a new HVAC system.

9. Minimize Heat-Producing Activities

Activities, such as cooking and showering, can introduce a lot of unwanted heat and humidity into the air. Consider using heat-producing appliances at night or in the early morning when temperatures aren’t as high. Computers, stereos, TVs, hair dryers, irons, dishwashers, and other items all contribute to the heat in your home. Take showers instead of baths and consider taking NAVY showers, which consists of getting wet, turning the water off while you lather, and then turning it back on again to rinse off. Click here for more ways to save water at home.

10. Lower Water Heat Temperature

The standard temperature setting for hot water heaters is 140°F, but this temperature is actually too hot for any normal use. In fact, it can even lead to burns and scalding, especially concerning if young children are at home. A much safer and efficient setting is 120°F. Not only will you save money and energy, but you probably won’t even notice a difference. Click here for more water heating tips.

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