If you ventured outside in the past few days, you won’t be surprised to find out that this is typically the hottest time of the year in Wisconsin.
Hopefully you have air conditioning, and it’s providing you with reliable, affordable cooling. Here’s how to make sure that continues for the rest of the summer, and beyond.
The cost of the electricity it takes to cool your home depends on several different variables, including the air conditioning unit, the level at which you set your thermostat, and your power supplier’s energy costs.
But generally, expect to spend about 25 to 50 cents for every hour that you run the A/C. That might not sound like much, but if the A/C runs twelve hours per day, it could cost you three to six bucks a day, or $90-180 per month.
During peak heat periods, you might want or need to run the unit 24 hours per day, and then you’re spending $180-360 per month.
Spend less, cool more
You can reduce that cost with a couple of simple steps. First, keep your blinds and drapes shut during the day so that the sun doesn’t heat up your home’s interior.
Don’t open the windows (even at night) when the humidity is high, and the temperature outside is higher than you would prefer.
Even if there is a nice breeze, after the temperature outside rises it will take a lot of time, work, and money for the air conditioner to bring your home’s temperature back to a more comfortable level.
If you have central air conditioning, turn it on and then check the ducts (starting at the furnace) to make sure the cool air isn’t leaking out before it gets to the rooms you use.
If you find any leaks, you can seal them with duct tape (and this may be the first and last time in your life that you use that product for its originally-intended purpose).
Install a programmable thermostat so that the A/C starts cooling an hour before you get home, and stops when you don’t need it (such as late at night or when you’re away).
The best way to make sure your air conditioning works when you want it to is to have it checked out and maintained by a qualified technician, preferably in the late spring before the heat hits, and everybody else wants their units checked or fixed.
If can’t remember the last time you had this maintenance done, you may want to schedule a visit as soon as possible.
Also, make sure you change the filter every month during the summer when you’re using you’re A/C often (as well as during the winter when your furnace is running regularly).
Finally, don’t make the frugal mistake of shutting the vents in rooms where the cooling may not be needed. Doing so can cause the unit’s pipes to freeze up.
If this happens, shut the A/C off, but leave the fan in your ventilating system on. You may also want to go outside and pour hot water on the unit’s frozen pipes. After 12 to 24 hours, the ice should be thawed and the unit should be blowing cold air again.
When to replace you air conditioner
Most decent units will last fifteen years or more. But if your unit is at least ten years old, you may be able to save 20 to 30% per month in cooling costs by purchasing a new, more energy-efficient model.
Depending on your utility and location, your purchase may qualify for rebates and/or tax credits that can help offset the cost of the air conditioner.
Talk to a heating and air conditioning dealer or your utility to check your eligibility. Also, visit www.energystar.gov for more information on potential tax credits.
But don’t procrastinate on the purchase. Those tax credits expire on December 31st. Although that date will certainly come soon enough, at that time your air conditioning will probably be the last thing on your mind.