We previously covered troubleshooting for HVAC maintenance in a recent post, but we also know that there can be more to air conditioning than meets the eye. Sourced from an editor at Groom and Style, here are some tips on how to cool your house (or building) and save on your summer electric bill without completely breaking the bank.
The hotter it gets outside, the more enjoyable it can be to step indoors to a cool, dry place. For many Americans, air conditioning in the summer is a necessary expense. Hot days can limit our productivity and too much heat can easily exhaust us and make us feel sluggish, if not be outright dangerous. However, the cost of air conditioning can add a serious load to any home’s electricity bill, thus forcing many of us to find a happy medium between comfort and energy efficiency.
Historically speaking, air conditioning is what made it comfortable for people to move their activities indoors. Even before the invention of air conditioning, we would seek out the most novel ways of staying cool. This included such measures as eating snow, refrigerating underwear, and President Garfield’s cooling device that blew air through cotton sheets soaked in ice water. None of these cooling methods, however, approached the necessary balance between comfort and efficiency until the breakthrough of electricity.
The very first air conditioning unit, designed by Willis Carrier in 1902, was developed for humidity control, and cooling was a delightful byproduct of the system. In the ’30s and ’40s, AC units were cooling the homes of America’s wealthy. By the ’50s and ’60s, they were found in middle-class homes as well.
As of 2015, about 88 percent of American homes, including apartment buildings, had some form of air conditioning. Over 70 percent of homes being built now have central AC developed into their plan.
How Does Air Conditioning Work?
Most air conditioners function by using a chemical called a refrigerant, which loops from inside the home to outside and back. Refrigerant absorbs the heat and pulls it out of the home. Once the refrigerant is outside, it cools down again in preparation for cycling back into the home.
Air conditioning systems generally have three parts:
- An evaporator
- A compressor
- A condenser
The part that you might be familiar with inside your home is the evaporator. Air is blown across the evaporator coils where the refrigerant picks up the heat and takes it to the outdoor compressor in the form of hot vapor. This is what the fan on or off function on your thermostat means.
The compressor and condenser are the parts of your air conditioning system that are most often located outside or on the roof. The compressor converts the refrigerant into pressurized gas. The condenser then radiates the heat outside and reverts the refrigerant to its cooled liquid state. The refrigerant then re-enters your home, and the cycle repeats.
How to Reduce Your Electric Bill in the Summer
The Energy Information Administration forecasts that the typical U.S. household will spend an average of $426 for electricity this summer, due to a two percent increase on days when the demand for air conditioning is high. The average American will pay 13.5 cents per kilowatt-hour (kWh), but these prices are higher than those of previous years due to price increases for natural gas and other fuels. The average central air conditioning system will use 3000-5000 watts per hour of cooling. Using a conversion calculator such as this one can help you break down your energy use and estimate your costs.
That being said, lowering the thermostat in the summer can directly equate to a rise in your electric bill. In other words, you’ll be able to save three percent on your air conditioning costs for every raised degree in temperature. Finding a happy medium between comfort and cost can keep you on your toes with your thermostat. The general rule of thumb is to keep your home as warm as you can stand it to be.
According to Energy Star, in order to optimize both cooling and energy efficiency in your house, it’s best to keep the thermostat at 78 degrees Fahrenheit when at home and awake. According to the American Society for Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning (ASHRAE), the standard comfort range during the summer weather, when wearing light clothing, is between 72 degrees and 78 degrees Fahrenheit and between 35 and 60 percent humidity.
Energy Star recommends that you increase your thermostat to 85 degrees when you’re at work or away from the house, and to 82 degrees when you’re sleeping. If your main priority is lowering your bills, this will be an effective approach to begin deciding what cooling patterns are best for your home.
However, many report that these temperature settings are higher than those preferred by the average American. Some consider 78 degrees to be a stifling temperature when they are awake and active, and many individuals prefer to sleep at even cooler temperatures to ensure a restful night. In this case, it might be helpful to try a portable air conditioning unit in the room, along with a ceiling or box fan, to keep your bedroom cool while the rest of the house warms up at night.
To find out what temperature you should strive for, how to stay cool in an apartment that doesn’t have A/C, and how to prevent your home from attracting unnecessary heat, – continue reading the rest of this post on Groom and Style.com
Now that you are prepped for summer, get out and enjoy the warm sunny weather!
P.S. Not sure which HVAC company to use, or not thrilled with your current HVAC service? Just ask us for a few recommendations; after 30 years of servicing Californian generators, we’re familiar with many reliable, trustworthy HVAC servicers across the state.
Also, just a reminder that we’re here to take stellar care of your generators, so you can keep your A/C running no matter what!