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Tips to Cut Home Energy Usage

Saving money is always a good idea, especially in the summer when air conditioning can consume the lion's share of your total energy usage. Is it possible to keep cooling costs under budget without sacrificing indoor comfort? Most homeowners know that turning up the thermostat when no one is home saves money. But there are other ways to cut air conditioning costs. Here are some tips to stretch your cooling dollar while conserving energy:

Install Ceiling Fans

Ceiling fans can cool things off, even though they don't lower temperatures. A ceiling fan in the bedroom, for example, supplies a breeze that will make you feel cooler even though you haven't lowered the thermostat. Ceiling fans with multiple speeds are best; they can be adjusted to suit your needs. And the bigger the room, the longer the fan blades should be.

Seal Cracks

Use weatherstripping to seal any spaces around doors and windows that allow cool air to escape and warm air to enter. Sealing these gaps, however small, can reduce air conditioning costs.

Add Insulation

Insulation conserves energy. It keeps your home warmer in winter and cooler in summer. By some estimates, proper insulation can lower utility bills by up to 50 percent.

Keep Windows Covered

Uncovered windows allow sunlight to enter, and the solar energy raises temperatures. Closing drapes and blinds during the day will help your air conditioner to maintain a comfortable indoor temperature while using less energy.

Clean Or Replace Air Filters

Dirty or clogged filters restrict the flow of cool air, and they make your air conditioner work extra hard. Blocked filters can also damage your cooling system. Air filters should be cleaned or replaced monthly, especially if you have pets. Clean filters will help your air conditioner to operate more efficiently; this keeps utility bills in check.

Cook Outdoors

Everyone loves a barbeque. The food tastes delicious, and there's no better time to cook out than during the summer. Indoor heat is generated by stove top burners and ovens, so fire up the grill and keep the heat outside. If you must cook indoors, use the microwave to keep heat emissions low.

Get A Duct Inspection

If you have central air conditioning, your ducts may harbor cracks, splits or leaks through which up to 40 percent of cooled air can escape. Meanwhile, your air conditioner is working overtime to keep up. Ducts can also get clogged with debris that block the flow of cooled air. Many air conditioning companies perform duct sealing services, and if your ducts are clogged, an experienced HVAC technician can clean them out.

Schedule Preventive Maintenance

Annual maintenance helps your air conditioner to operate at peak efficiency while extending its lifespan. A well-maintained cooling system uses less energy, and it's much less likely to break down when you least expect it.

Perform AC Repairs Promptly

If you suspect that your air conditioner is not working properly, don't wait until the system becomes inoperable before scheduling repair. An ailing air conditioner won't always break down right away, but it can consume more energy as it struggles to function. If you notice any of the following symptoms, it's time for an AC service call:

  • AC compressor is not cycling on
  • Air conditioner is constantly cycling on and off
  • Indoor temperature doesn't agree with thermostat setting
  • Cooling is uneven; some rooms are cool while others are warm
  • Air conditioner is making strange noises
  • There's weak airflow coming through the air vents
  • Air conditioner is leaking
  • Air blowing from the vents is not cold

Is It Time For Air Conditioner Replacement?

Central air conditioners and heat pumps last for an average of 10-15 years with proper installation and regular maintenance. But if you want to keep air conditioning costs as low as possible, the new, high-efficiency AC systems are designed to do just that. When you replace an old air conditioner with a high-tech system, your monthly savings can, over time, offset the cost of the installation. And if you replace your central air conditioner with a zoned ductless system, you can lower cooling costs even more.

If your air conditioner needs frequent repairs just to keep it going, if it isn't keeping you as comfortable as you would like, or if it has not been properly maintained, now is a great time for an energy-efficient upgrade. The 25C tax credits have been reinstated, and they'll be in effect until the end of 2013. If you purchase a high efficiency air conditioner or heat pump prior to the end of the year, you can deduct up to $300 of the installation costs from your federal taxes.