In the average US household, air conditioning gobbles up around 12% of the budget. That rate goes up to 17% in the hot-dry part of Arizona and 27% in humid-hot places like Southeast Texas. Given the portion of your money going toward cooling, this is definitely somewhere you want to be as efficient as possible. So we have seven no-cost tips to keep your unit running as efficiently as possible.
1. Vacuum Your Vents
Dust, debris, hair, cat toys--you might just find any of it in your in-door vents, especially if your A/C installation in Phoenix, AZ included floor vents rather than the ceiling. Any significant buildup here can block or redirect airflow unintentionally, making A/C cost you more.
2. Plan Furniture Layout Around Vents
When they installed your A/C and ductwork, they planned out the vent placement to maximize room temperature control. But if you've placed a bed over a vent or a massive dresser right next to one, you may be blocking that vent's flow.
Now, the other vents have to work harder to keep the temperature comfortable, so your unit uses more energy.
Seek out vents that you may have unintentionally covered. And if you're experiencing hot spots in your home, try rearranging the furniture. It might just solve the problem.
Ideally, you need 10 full inches of space on every side of the vent.
3. Acclimate to a Higher Temperature
Have you ever been out on a frigid night, especially at the beginning of the cold season where you are? It will feel extra cold, and you'll probably want to bundle up. But if you encounter that same temperature a bit later in the cold season, it won't feel so cold, and now you're fine in a sweater.
That's because our bodies acclimate to the temperature ranges we're accustomed to. It's why Inuits can live in the northernmost reaches of habitable land and Pimas living outside of Phoenix don't feel like they're cooking in the shade every time the wind blows, as someone visiting from another part of the country would.
Now, we're not suggesting you need to go to those extremes. You bought A/C for a reason. But you can certainly learn to feel comfortable a few degrees higher or lower than you're currently accustomed to in the summer and winter.
4. Clean Around the Condenser Unit
Your A/C Unit will run most efficiently when it stays clear of debris. You can very carefully clean your condenser with a gently applied brush. But be careful not to press too hard and damage the coils. If you get annual A/C maintenance, this task is typically part of the package.
5. Keep Curtains Closed to Avoid Direct Sun
Particularly when the sun is facing that window, keep the curtains or blinds closed. You might also consider heat-blocking curtains if you don't already have them. But we did say this is a no-cost list, so the ones you have will likely help. And curtains can be even more effective at keeping A/C heat in during the winter and cold nights.
6. Only Use the Dryer or Oven At Night
If you're trying to stay cool in the summertime, the worst thing you can do is run the dryer or oven. These can raise the temperature of your home by 10-20 degrees. Then the A/C has to work overtime to get it back down.
If you do this after dark, then the outside air is already cooling, and you may even be able to open a window to let some of that heat out.
7. Inspect Ductwork
If you have a crawl space or other accessible space where your ducts reside, you may be able to do this yourself. Otherwise, this may be a call to A/C repair.
You're looking for a few things here. First, you need to make sure your duct boot that connects the duct to the vent is well attached to each vent, so it doesn't lose air. Second, be on the lookout for any ducts themselves that are damaged and losing air.
Finally, make sure ductwork is insulated. If it isn't, then every time the A/C takes a break, those ducts heat up and release hot air into your home. The air moving through them will also have a harder time staying cool from the unit to the vent, so the A/C has to run longer.
8. Change Out Your Lightbulbs
Incandescent bulbs are near and dear to many of us because we grew up with them. But there's a reason these are getting harder to find. They use a lot of electricity and produce a lot of heat.
Also, keep any heat source away from your thermostat to avoid tricking it into thinking it's hotter inside than it is.
9. Change Out Your Return Filters
Changing them has no cost, so we'll take our liberty with this one. Even though many return filters say they can last up to 30 days, if you have pets or hobbies that produce debris that can make its way to the return, you may need to change them more frequently.