Take Control Of Your Cooling Bills This Summer!

August 3, 2016

When the mercury rises in the Denver-Boulder area, it isn’t uncommon to see your electricity bill increase right along with the temperature. After all, if you’re trying to beat the summer heat by running your air conditioner all day, you’re bound to see higher utility bills. Rather than letting costs spiral out of your grasp, take control over your cooling bills by following any of these recommendations that fit with your home and lifestyle:

1. Program the Thermostat
Lennox AC UnitTo help keep your cooling costs under control, start by programming your thermostat wisely. Think about your family’s schedule as falling into three distinct categories: asleep, awake, and away. When you’re awake, preparing a meal, watching a movie, or having family time, try setting the thermostat at the highest temperature that you can comfortably tolerate. The higher the setting, the lower your electric bills will be. We’ve found that settings in the mid to upper ’70s are often acceptable, but of course that will vary depending on the individual. When you’re asleep or away from home, try dialing the temperature up several more degrees, for additional energy savings. However, when it’s extremely hot outdoors, be careful about not adjusting the temp. too high, so the system doesn’t have to work excessively hard to recover when you get back home. There is no concrete rule of thumb, so experimentation with thermostat settings, as well as asking the advice of your HVAC contractor, is a good course of action.

2. Replace The Filter!
For homes with central air conditioning, don’t forget to replace the furnace filter frequently during the summer. A clogged or neglected filter can severely impact your cooling bills if airflow thru the system and around your home is restricted. Also be sure that air supply registers and return air grilles around the house are opened and unobstructed.

The same is true for the air conditioner’s outdoor condensing unit: If the outdoor unit is clogged with dirt, dust, or leaves, its ability to exhaust heat from the indoors will be hampered, increasing your electrical consumption to produce cool air. Contact your trusted HVAC contractor if you have concerns about the outdoor unit.

3. Check For Duct Leaks
Central AC and evaporative (‘swamp’) cooling systems deliver cold air to your home thru a sealed ducting system. Annually inspecting the ducting for air leakage, and sealing any leaks you discover, will help assure that the cool air you are paying for will be delivered to the living space where it will do the most good.

4. Don’t Skimp On Routine Service
Make sure that your cooling system has received proper, professional servicing at some point during the season, to help insure that performance is maintaining at expected levels. For air conditioning systems, it is crucial that refrigerant levels in your system be at optimum levels and pressures, and that all controls are functioning properly. Your service tech will also make sure that the blower speed is set at the proper level for the cooling season. For evaporative coolers, while the procedures are different, the goal is the same: Peak performance equals lower utility bills!

5. Rethink Curtains and Blinds
During the day, you might jump at the chance to sit in the sunshine and soak up some vitamin D. While a little sun might not compromise your indoor comfort, you’d be surprised at how quickly direct sunlight can heat up your home.

Keep solar heat from ‘cooking’ your home by installing blinds, curtains, or awnings. Closed blinds or curtains will significantly reduce direct solar heat gain. Outside, awnings can help reduce solar gain when you install them over east-, south-, or west-facing windows, helping moderate the morning or afternoon sun.

6. Check Your Insulation & Infiltration
Poorly insulated homes heat up more quickly during the summer, especially if your attic insulation is not up to snuff. Consider speaking with an insulating contractor to determine if you need more insulation in your home. Good R-values will help keep the cool air in–and slow down infiltration of outdoor heat. At the same time, make sure your attic is properly ventilated, keeping hot air from stagnating above and radiating downward into your home.

In addition, air leaks that allow cold breezes into your home during the winter can have the opposite effect during warm weather, so make sure air leaks around doors and windows are not letting in unwanted hot air.

7. Open Windows At Nite
The Boulder-Denver area is known for its warm, sunny summer days, but some nights can get downright comfortable outside. Before you head to bed at night, check the weather forecast. If a dry, cool night is ahead, shut the system down and open windows around your home to let the cool air in.

8. Manage Heat-Producing Activities
When you stick to your normal cooking and cleaning routine all year long, you might not realize how much heat and humidity you generate. Try grilling outdoors or having no-cook dinners instead of cooking up a storm in your kitchen. If you do cook inside, be sure to turn on the exhaust fan over the stove. Try doing other heat-producing activities, like laundry and dishes, after the sun has set, and turn off items like computers, stereo, unneeded lights, and the TV when not in use. Consider installing cooler running compact fluorescent light bulbs wherever you can, as they produce much less heat than traditional incandescent bulbs.

Vent fans can also work wonders in the bathroom and laundry room. Turn them on when you take a shower or do a load of laundry to keep humidity and heat from building up inside.

9. Use Fans
Ceiling fans excel at keeping the air moving in your home, and while they don’t actually lower the temperature, the air movement can help you feel cooler while using less electricity than the AC. Small portable fans, placed in working or leisure areas, can also help.

Plan For The Long Term…

Plant a Tree!
For those of you planning for the long run in your home, consider planting shade trees around your home wherever you’d like to reduce solar gain on the house. Consider what types of leaves they drop and if that might create potential debris/clogging issues for the outdoor condensing unit or evaporative cooler. (Note: cottonwoods are notorious for clogging AC units!).

Consider a System Upgrade

Another long-term plan that will absolutely assist with summer cooling bills is to consider replacing an older system that has outlived its efficient life, and is costing much more to cool your home than the latest options. Plan ahead and budget for a time that makes sense for your family’s finances.

Do you need advice on the best way to operate your system, or want to learn more about annual maintenance–or are you in the market for a new cooling system? Call Save Home Heat Company today at (303) 625-9155 to get expert advice or a free quote for the cooling system that makes the most sense for you and your family!