Did you know that 14% of the energy produced in the United States is used to air condition buildings and 10% of the energy produced is used to air condition homes? What is the total cost to consumers? Over 15 billion dollars a year. To put that into perspective the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) equates that to an astounding 140 million tons of CO2.
Energy efficiency refers to the reduction of energy used by specific end-use devices and systems, such as air conditioners, typically without affecting the quality of the services provided. Energy efficiency can be achieved many ways. In the case of your air conditioning one simple way to achieve this efficiency is by reducing your air conditioning needs.
Reducing Your Air Conditioning Needs
Depending upon where you live you may feel very dependent on your air conditioner. You may even be thinking about upgrading to a newer air conditioner with higher improved SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio) but before you do consider the following – the easiest way to save money and energy on cooling is to reduce your air conditioning needs in the first place.
While some of my solutions may seem initially costly – in the long run you will enjoy a monthly energy savings, in some cases you may appreciate the value of your home, and you will always feel good knowing that you are doing your part to fight global warming.
Strategies for Reducing Your Air Conditioning Needs
- Invest in alternate forms of in-house cooling such as ceiling fans or house fans. Unless you live in a very humid climate than ceiling fans, which can provide cooling by creating a low- level “wind chill” effect, are a good and relatively inexpensive choice. Ceiling fans are also rated by Energy Star so it’s easy to find energy efficient models. House fans are usually large fans in your top-floor ceiling. They cool by expelling hot air out and in-turn creating a vacuum that sucks cooler air in. Unfortunately house fans are not covered by Energy Star. In either case fan use substantially less energy then air conditioning systems and can go a long way in reducing your dependence on your air conditioner.
- Replace older single pane windows with newer more energy efficient double pane or even triple pane windows. More energy efficiency windows can reduce your air conditioning needs but depending upon the number of windows involved it may get expensive. If expense becomes a concern you can always opt to use drapes or window coverings that block out the sunlight effectively. While drapes and window coverings will help, for the best results when justified, I recommend replacing the framing and glass. In some cases replacing your windows can improve their energy efficiency by up to 41% in the summer – when your air conditioning is used most.
- Consider shade gardening. If replacing your windows is expensive but you have room for gardening consider planting shade trees on the sunny side of your home. The less direct sunlight that gets into your house, the less heat. Shade trees also have the added benefits of reducing local area CO2 pollution. You can expect a full grown shade tree to gradually remove about 10 lbs of CO2 a year, native trees are always good choice because they are easier to maintain.
- Replace non-programmable thermostats with programmable versions. You can save as much as 10% a year on your cooling bills by using a programmable thermostat to adjust the temperature automatically while you regularly sleeping or out of the house. When you shop for a programmable thermostat, be sure to look for the Energy Star versions.
- Install energy efficient roofing. Energy Star offers a number of different Reflective Roof Products that can reduce your peak air conditioning demand by as much as 10-15%.
- Use light-colored or “cool” sidings or paints with a high Light Reflective Value (LRV). Most major paint manufacturers can tell you the LRV of any color paint chip. The higher the LRV the more the paint will reflect away heat instead of absorbing it. Keeping your house cooler by reflecting away heat will reduce your air conditioning needs.
- Replace your older/inefficient appliances such as old or secondary refrigerator or, replace incandescent light bulbs with LEDs. The less heat your appliances and inefficient lighting give off the less your air conditioner will have to compensate.
- Unplug large consumer electronics when you aren’t using them. Lots of newer electronics have a “sleep mode” that keeps them ready for action. This “sleep mode” uses electricity and because the device is running at some level it will still be creating heat. When not in use,don’t forget to unplug chargers for your smaller devices, too
- Properly insulate your home. If you have a home that isn’t properly insulated you can waste a lot of electricity when the cool air created by your air conditioner escapes. Why? Your air conditioner will simply keep working harder to maintain a stable temperature regardless of continuous air leaks. The harder your air conditioner works the more electricity is uses and the more expensive it becomes. If your home has an attic it is very common for air leaks to occur between your living space and the attic space.
An easy way to save money on air conditioning which is often overlooked is through the simple reduction of its use. While enjoying the cool benefits of air conditioning it is easy to overlook its expensive nature, due to the electricity required one has to also consider it’s environmental cost. While being green isn’t always easy, in this case, being green will save you money – by reducing your energy usage.