Most people look forward to the warmer summer months when they can take part in a wide variety of outdoor activities. But, there is one downside, the heat in summer can be too much for some of us and our indoor comfort may suffer. At times, the heat can be absolutely overwhelming and then we rely on our air conditioning systems. Staying indoors during the hottest parts of the day is a good idea, but running the AC at full blast can be expensive. In this article, we will take a closer look at four ways that you can keep your home cool and comfortable without breaking the bank.
An Energy Efficiency Brief Primer
Some of the energy saving strategies that we will present in this article are directly related to the HVAC system and others are proven strategies that can also make a real difference. Some of these tips are even passive in nature and they can save a homeowner a lot of money with a little advanced planning. There is some utility in these approaches even if you own an older and less energy efficient HVAC system. That said, every AC system has a finite lifespan and if your equipment is reaching that age it’s time to evaluate your options.
As a system ages, it usually requires frequent repairs and the loss of performance and energy efficiency can be obvious. Making a switch to a high-efficiency system can make a huge difference but many people disregard them because they cost more to purchase and install. But, the energy savings typically help the homeowner to recoup their investment faster than they expected. In the meantime let’s take a look at four ways to keep your home cool and lower your energy bills this summer.
1. Evaluate and Reinforce the Insulation
This is a truly passive way to improve the energy efficiency of cooling and heating systems throughout the year. The warmer air is kept out of the home in summer and vice versa and no energy is expended. But, this does require a little advance planning to check the places where the treated air tends to escape outdoors. The most likely locations are the gaps around doors and windows, attic spaces, and other locations. Even a powerful AC system will struggle to keep the indoor air at a comfortable temperature if the treated air is constantly exiting the home. Any gaps around the doors and windows can be sealed with weather stripping or caulk. Adding extra insulation to the attic can take longer, but it’s a great way to prevent the air in that space from overheating and heating up the home.
2. Closing the Shades
It’s always cooler in the shade and this principle can be applied to your home too. Keeping the heat out is a sound strategy and keeping the shades partially or fully closed can be effective. This is especially true if the windows in a room are facing south and they get sun throughout the day. Over time, the heat can build up in a room and even the furnishings can store heat for a long time after the sun has set.
When you run an air conditioner under these conditions, it will need to work much harder to keep the space cool. This will drive up the energy bills and increase the risk of a component failure because the equipment is overworked. Adding reflective blinds is a great option for south facing rooms and drawing the shades during the hotter parts of the day is effective. The opposite is also true in winter when you can let sunlight stream in to warm up a room for free.
3. Install a Smart Thermostat
The thermostat is an under appreciated part of a heating and cooling system. But, when you consider that this unit is the brain for the entire system, it’s easier to understand its importance.
Older thermostats were a simple set and forget unit and it was all too easy to forget to change the temperature with the seasons. Programmable thermostats added simple timing features to increase the utility but they are still very limited.
A smart thermostat is the next level when it comes to controlling cooling and heating in the home. These units can be remotely controlled and programmed in real time via a Wifi connection to your computer or preferred mobile device. A dedicated app allows the user to make temperature changes, monitor energy usage and even detect errors.
A smart thermostat will gradually learn the habits of the homeowner and make the necessary changes automatically. Even small tweaks and habit changes can make a huge difference to the cooling and heating costs in a home. Many newer HVAC systems are compatible with smart thermostats, but some are not. If you’re interested in this technology, contact your local HVAC specialist for expert help and advice.
4. Invest in Regular Maintenance
Many homeowners ignore the maintenance requirements of their AC systems and they only call out an HVAC technician if something goes wrong. It’s a better idea to adopt a proactive approach with preventative maintenance. The ideal time is before the start of the cooling season when the HVAC specialist will have more time. After the weather turns warmer, they tend to be inundated with calls from people that have failing AC systems.
A system that’s regularly maintained will perform better and the energy efficiency will be maintained for longer. After installation, all HVAC systems tend to lose some efficiency until they are replaced at the conclusion of their useful lifespan. But, systems that are well maintained can retain some of that energy efficiency for longer and they tend to last longer too. If an AC system is serviced and cleaned and the air filters are replaced regularly, the energy consumption for cooling can be reduced by 5-15% depending on your specific system.
If you need to schedule some essential maintenance for your AC system, contact your local heating and cooling specialist.