Save Money with Energy Efficient Air Conditioner Use

Last weekend, summer arrived early in Los Angeles. It’s gone again, but the brief appearance caused thousands of air conditioners to be fired up for a few days. Even if summer hasn’t arrived where you are yet, now is a good time to check your system or develop a plan for energy efficient air conditioner use. Not only will it reduce your electricity bill, it will also help the environment.

Of course, air conditioning options depend on where you live, but here are a few suggestions for different types of housing:

For a house with windows, a yard, and space on all sides, there are four primary suggestions for reducing air conditioner use:

  • Plant trees on the sunny side of the house to provide shade on hot summer days
  • Turn off lights and close the drapes or blinds in any rooms you’re not using
  • Open opposite windows or sliding doors to allow cross air-flow
  • Apply window films to block additional light.

By doing this, my parents are able to limit their AC use to days when it gets over 95 in the house. Using a fan makes a room feel four degrees cooler, but when it’s over 90, that’s not much of a difference.

For an apartment without air conditioning and adequate air flow, some of the same above suggestions apply, but some don’t. For example, you probably have no control over the foliage outside your apartment. My landlord allowed a giant shrub to grow all winter, and then cut it down when it got hot outside. This is the exact opposite of the ideal, so I discovered several ways to keep cool in these conditions:

  • Use an outdoor grill and limit oven use. If barbecues aren’t permitted by your lease, use a Foreman grill inside.
  • Buy several fans. If your front door faces out to fresh air, place a box fan in the doorway to suck cool air from outside. Some of my neighbors said they had luck facing the fan out, so it sucked all the hot air out of the room, but I could never feel the difference.
  • Open the front door and all windows to allow cross-air flow, but keep the blinds down. Instead, tilt them open to block some light, but still allow air through.
  • Keep the lights off as much as possible. Don’t use candles, they’re just as warm.
  • Take off your shoes and socks. You lose heat through your head, hands, and feet, so keeping them bare will help keep you cool, as will wearing shorts and t-shirts.

For an apartment with air conditioning, and adequate air-flow or direct light, use the same suggestions to avoid turning on the air conditioner until it’s absolutely necessary.

For an apartment with air conditioning, but little air-flow or direct light, some of the above suggestions apply, but most don’t. My current apartment is a more modern building surrounding a courtyard, but we get little air-flow or direct light because of the design. To keep our apartment cool without using a lot of AC, we follow these suggestions:

  • Turning off lights in other rooms
  • Grill outside or use a Foreman grill inside to reduce oven/stove use
  • Wear shorts, t-shirts, and go barefoot
  • If you have airflow, keep the windows open longer and use fans to cool the room
  • Set the overnight AC above 78 degrees. Turn it up just long enough to bring the temperature down before you go to sleep.

In summer, you should also drink lots of water and other refreshing beverages – not soda – to stay cool and hydrated.

Extreme temperatures usually necessitate air conditioning, especially for children and the elderly. If you don’t have air conditioning, go the library, the mall, or some other air conditioned location. Even if you do have it, you can reduce your energy bill by going outside in the twilight hours to enjoy the fresh air or use the library or mall’s AC. With wise AC use, you can reduce your energy bill significantly and still be comfortable.

If it’s still winter where you live, try these tips for reducing winter energy costs.

What’s your favorite way to avoid using the air conditioner? Tell me in the comments.

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