It is every homeowner’s nightmare: receiving your electric bill after a month of unbearable summer heat. Your energy consumption skyrocketed these past days because your air conditioner has been running non-stop.
But even after expecting a huge amount, you still get sticker shock upon unfolding your bill. You HAVE to figure it out, “How to save money on AC but still keep cool during the summer?”
High power consumption during and around the summer season has become a common nuisance for every homeowner. It is not surprising that people desperately wanted to lower their electricity consumption without jeopardizing the safety and well-being of their families if they don’t use air conditioning as much.
Is there a way out of it, though? The good news: Yes, there are practical ways to reduce your electric usage but not to the point of profusely sweating inside your home.
How to Save Money with Air Conditioning
Admittedly, your family may not survive the sweltering summer heat without the help of your trusty air conditioner. But you also do not want to lose your life savings to just paying soaring electricity bills month on month, especially now that the economy is getting tight.
Here are some practical ways that you should try to reduce your air conditioning costs and at the same time relax your reliance on our AC:
- Close the gaps and seal the leaks
The air conditioning system thrives on airtight spaces. If there are gaps and holes in your windows, doors, ducts, and attic, the chilled air can easily escape making it harder for the AC to successfully lower the temperature.
The longer it is running to meet the thermostat’s desired level, the higher energy it consumed. Moreover, it puts a greater strain on your air conditioner which can shorten its life and require additional funds for repair.
Keep all doors and windows in each room shut before turning the AC unit on to prevent the processed air from escaping. Additionally, caulking and weatherstripping of leaks are easy ways to help your air conditioning unit perform better and be more energy-efficient. Tools for this home project are widely available online.
- Do not let too much sunlight in
A good amount of sunshine can be beneficial for your health if you are taking your morning walk in the park or tending your garden. But having an excessive amount of the ruthless summer sun penetrating your indoor space is not a particularly good idea. It can increase the temperature of your home and interfere with the cooling effect of the air conditioner.
Block the sunlight with some trees and shrubs strategically placed outside your windows. Putting an awning outside of your windows can reduce the amount of sun coming in, too. Solar screens or sunshade screens, shutters, and roll-up shades are other cool options to close up the heat.
Using draperies and closing them at the blistering peak of a summer day is the most inexpensive yet effective way to limit the amount of sunlight that shines through your living space. The Department of Energy suggests using medium-colored draperies with white plastic backings to lower the room temperature by 33%.
- Go for Smart Thermostats
Many sources would simply push for programmable thermostats to preset your air conditioner while you are away or asleep. But the more clever option is the smart thermostat that you can connect to your smartphone.
Some more advanced thermostat brands, like the Ecobee3 Smarter Wi-Fi Thermostat, can be installed in different rooms and it will control the temperature based on the average readings of the rooms. If some rooms are empty, the thermostat will adjust the temperature based only on the readings of occupied rooms. The Ecobee3 promises an average of 23% savings on your electricity bills.
- Switch it up with whole-house ceiling fans
If you live in an area where the days are hot, but the early mornings and evenings are cold, ceiling fans could be a more cost-efficient option. The constant circulating of air and the breeze it creates cools your skin as it helps the evaporation of sweat.
It can also complement your AC well since you can turn it on in the cooler parts of the day and only turn on the air conditioner as the temperature rises during the day.
- Clean and replace your AC filters
This could be the most underrated yet most important step of all. Clogged filters can burden your air conditioner with unwanted particles that make it work harder than it should. As a result, it will take a much longer time to remove the humidity and cool the space, using up enormous amounts of energy unnecessarily.
So clean your air filters routinely, at least every two to three months to save up on electric bills. You can also hire an HVAC professional to service your air conditioner unit for you.
What’s more, replacing your filter regularly can prevent allergens from roaming around your breathing space and potentially cause respiratory problems. You will even feel the difference in the temperature after cleaning or replacing your filters since there are no more obstructions for the cool air to fill the room.
How Can I Lower My Air Conditioning Costs?
Let’s recap on how to save from your air conditioning expenses in the summer.
A significant increase in energy consumption of the air conditioner during the summer has a direct effect on the home’s electricity bill.
Fuel prices, power plant costs, transmission and distribution system fees, weather conditions, and government regulations are equally key factors that affect electricity prices. The higher demands for fuels, constructing and maintaining power plants, and other systems during the summer cause an increase in utility charges.
Using your air conditioner from day to night can be the easiest and only way to maintain a comfortable temperature inside your home. But there are practical ways to use the air conditioner economically and lessen the pressure we put on our AC in hot seasons.
Using a smart thermostat where you can control the temperature of each room can save you a lot of money since not all rooms are likely to be equally occupied at the same time. There is also less risk of forgetting to turn off the air conditioning upon stepping outside.
Keeping your air conditioner well-maintained is another way to save energy that most people disregard. A clogged filter can easily weaken the performance of the AC, making it work harder to cool the indoor air and spending a huge amount of energy unnecessarily. You can easily save money by regular cleaning and annual maintenance of your unit.
Why Your Energy Bill Is So High
What’s the mystery behind increased energy bills in almost every house in warm seasons.
You will be relieved to know that it is not entirely your fault nor your air conditioning that you have a humongous utility bill every summer. The U.S. Energy Information Administration, or EIA, gave us substantial facts on the many factors that affect how you are being billed for your electrical power usage.
“Electricity prices generally reflect the cost to build, finance, maintain, and operate power plants and the electricity grid,” the EIA shared. The statistical agency of the Department of Energy listed five key elements of electricity pricing: fuel prices, power plant charges, transmission and distribution system fees, weather conditions, and finally, regulations.
The cost of natural gases and petroleum fuels can be said to be the foremost factor of all. The prices for these fuels have the potential to climb when there is a high electricity demand (like around summer, obviously) or if there are fuel supply constraints or disruptions due to adverse conditions like extreme weather incidents or accidental damage to infrastructure used for electricity generation.
An increase in fuel prices equals an increase in electricity bills. That simple.
Power plant costs and transmission and distribution system prices impact our electricity charges in the same way because these setups require financing, construction, maintenance, and operating expenses.
As you may be aware, when the weather conditions are too hot or too cold, the demand for heating and air conditioning shoots up. Additionally, there are periods during the year when low-cost energy resources are not available such as rain and snow that provide hydropower generation, and wind speeds. In cases of drought or in summer where there is a high demand for water, there is an added pressure on fuel and energy prices.
Government regulations may have the slightest effect on the five factors affecting our electricity bill. However, it is important to know that the authorities’ power to regulate prices for the sake of public service or utility commissions is totally out of our control as homeowners.
The EIA revealed: “The cost to supply electricity changes minute by minute. However, most consumers pay rates based on the seasonal cost of electricity. Prices are usually highest in the summer when total demand is high because more expensive generation sources are added to meet the increased demand.”
Not-so-fun Fact: Did you know that electricity prices are higher for residential and commercial consumers than industrial firms?
“But why?” you may ask in despair. It is because it costs more for electric companies to distribute electricity to houses and businesses, so they charge higher.
The EIA showed a comparison of prices per kilowatt-hour for residential, commercial, and industrial consumers for 2020. The annual average price for a residential user is 13.04¢ per kWh, while commercial users are charged around 10.66¢ per kWh.
Meanwhile, industrial customers pay only a meager 6.83¢ per kWh! How is that even possible?
EIA explained that industrial users require more electricity and have the capacity to receive it at higher voltages. Hence, supplying them with electricity is considerably more efficient and cheaper. You can compare it to buying retail and wholesale; industrial users receive a better bargain.
So if electricity charges naturally shoot up in the summer, should I just give up using my air conditioner at home and switch to more affordable options to cool such as using fans?
Why Your Home Needs AC
While trying to cool yourself with a cold beverage and fans set on high can tide you over for a short time, air conditioning is backed by science to keep your body temperature levels safe and healthy during the scorching summer seasons.
Climate Central, founded by a group of scientists and journalists who study climate change and its impact on people, reported that the summers in the U.S. are getting warmer every year.
With NASA’s backing through a study by the Goddard Institute for Space Studies, the independent organization reported that in recent years “unusually cold days diminish drastically, while unusually hot days become more and more common.”
This statement has been supported by the latest reports such as The New York Times which declared that “hotter than normal temperatures are expected across almost all of the United States into September” of 2020.
There is no doubt then that most people will seek refuge in their air-conditioned houses while the summer heat is blaring outside. Some even stayed indoors for almost a full day under the mercy of their ACs. Given the present circumstances, that number of people is surely increasing.
If you are one of those people who are clearly reliant on your air conditioner for your cooling needs, there is no shame in that. In fact, besides wanting to be comfortable, you are taking care of your health by keeping your AC on.
A 2018 study entitled Equitable Access to Air Conditioning: A City Health Department’s Perspective on Preventing Heat-related Deaths revealed data that out of the 26 heat-stroke deaths that occurred between 2008 and 2011 in New York City, none had a working air conditioner. Additionally, neighborhoods with higher percentages of heat vulnerability showed a lower prevalence of air conditioners.
“Given that air conditioning reduces or eliminates indoor heat exposures, increasing air conditioning prevalence in heat-vulnerable neighborhoods is the most effective intervention to reduce heat-related morbidity and mortality,” the published research concluded.