Waiting for that next electric bill can be nerve-wracking if you've been blasting the air conditioner in this summer heat. Consumers are expected to spend roughly 4% more this year due to the hotter weather. Kelli Grant, Senior Consumer Reporter for SmartMoney.com has advice on how to keep your cooling costs in check.
Clean air filters monthly for central air and individual window or wall units. Dirt and dust hinder air flow, reducing efficiency. Clean filters could cut your bill by up to 5%
Give the air conditioner a break during the work day. Shifting the settings to allow higher daytime temperatures could cut the average household's electric bill by $180 a year, according to Energy Star.
If you're in the market for a new central air conditioner or window unit, check for deals. Many local utilities offer discounts for buying an energy-efficient unit, and some states still have "Cash for Clunker" rebates left. For example, Georgia offers $30 for room units and $99 on central units. This is also the last year that qualifying central air conditioners are eligible for a federal tax credit of 30% of the cost, including installation, up to $1,500.
Seal up your home. Cooled air can leak through cracks along window and door frames. Invest in some caulk and weather-stripping to plug up these drafts. A home that's properly insulated and sealed improves energy efficiency by up to 20% year-round, according to the Alliance to Save Energy.
The hotter the space, the harder an air conditioner must work to keep things cool. Limit the use of heat-generating appliances such as the oven, dishwasher and clothes dryer during the daytime hours when temperatures are hottest.
Try using keep cool tricks. Shut the blinds on south and west facing windows to block strong summer sun. Fans can also make the room feel a few degrees cooler, letting you set the air condition temperature a few degrees higher.
For more tips on keeping cooling costs low and other consumer tips click here.
Kelli Grant & Erika Wortham
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