How to Keep Central Air Bills in Check

David Deem

Here’s an eye-opening fact: For every degree your raise the set temperature on your central air, you’ll save about 3 percent on your utility bill.

But despite that important bit of information from the Department of Energy (DOE), it can be difficult to convince the other members of your household to raise the temperature on a sweltering day. Energy Star, a joint federal program run by the DOE and the Environmental Protection Agency, recommends the following schedule for your central air:

• 78° F when you’re home
• 85° F when you’re at work or away
• 82° F when you’re sleeping

If these settings prove to be too high for your comfort, lower them by one degree at a time, allowing the house to reach that temperature before adjusting it down further. Conversely, if you’re comfortable at the above temperatures, go ahead and raise them further. Remember, 3 percent savings for every degree higher you go!

Should you not have central air and be relying on window air conditioners, you’ll have a more difficult time maintaining the 78-degree goal. Thermostats in window units are located within the unit itself so the temperature is only being recorded in that area of the room. Depending upon how big the room is that you’re trying to cool, you’ll need to wait and see how long it takes the room to feel comfortable. Also, be sure not to waste energy; for example, if you’re cooling your bedroom with a window unit, just turn it on 30 minutes or so before you go to sleep to avoid cooling an empty room.

To save on cooling costs no matter what type of AC unit you have, try the following tips:

- Use ceiling fans and box fans, which create a “wind-chill” effect by circulating air.
- If you’re in a drier climate or one where temperatures dip a bit at night, turn the AC off and open your windows.
- Avoid adding to the problem with heat-generating appliances like ovens and dryers. Hang your clothes to dry and grill outside or opt for cold selections like salads and sandwiches.

Source: Consumer Reports



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