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Increase the Energy Efficiency of Your Air Conditioner

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Utility bills generally shoot up in the summer as homeowners crank up their air conditioning. However, you may find it surprising to learn that air conditioners are actually more energy efficient than furnaces or boilers. That being said, using air conditioning is still expensive primarily because it uses electricity.

According to the Department of Energy, you’ll save 3 percent on your utility bill for each degree you raise the set temperature for your central air. The best setting for your AC will depend on whether you care more about keeping cool or keeping your utility bill low.

Here are top 8 tips for maximizing the efficiency of your air conditioner.

1. Invest in an energy-efficient air conditioner.

If you have an old AC, replacing it with an Energy Star model can cut your cooling costs by up to 30 to 50 percent. Central AC units are rated for efficiency according to their Seasonal Energy- Efficiency Ratio (SEER). Window units are rated according to their Energy-Efficiency Ratio (EER). The higher the number, the more efficient the unit. If you double your SEER (or EER), you can cut your AC operating costs in half.

2. Keep your air conditioner clean.

During winter, there will often be an accumulation of debris and dried leaves in the fins of the unit’s condenser coil and the air filter can get clogged with dust. This can cause your air conditioner to use anywhere between 5 to 10 percent more electricity or even fail. Clean your unit to make it work more efficiently by reducing the stress and pressure that a buildup of debris and dust in and around the unit can put on the compressor.

3. Replace your air filter.

Replace the air filter of your air conditioner on a regular basis such as every month or every couple of months. A dirty air filter will decrease the air quality in your home and make your unit work harder to cool your home, using more electricity. Replacing your air filter will increase its efficiency and save you as much as 15 percent on your energy bills.

4. Protect your air conditioner from the elements as winter approaches.

One way to ensure that your air conditioner stays clean during winter is to use an air conditioner cover made of breathable material to protect it from the elements. Avoid using covers made of plastic. It will trap condensation from escaping, and your air conditioner can develop mold growth or rust.

5. Service your air conditioner annually

An air conditioner cools your home with a cold indoor coil, and a hot outdoor coil releases the collected heat outside. To minimize energy usage and reduce utility costs, the A/C coils should be cleaned at least once a year.

6. Use silicone or caulk to seal door and window cracks.

Your window air conditioning side panels can let hot air sneak in and cool air seep out because the seal between your air conditioner and the frame of your window can get easily damaged with moisture. Sealing the window cracks and side panels will prevent hot air from getting into your home. This could bring you energy savings as much as 10-20% according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

7. Don’t waste energy.

If you have central air conditioning, you’ll save on your energy bills by turning down the vents in rooms that are not being used.

8. Use your thermostat.

According to the Department of Energy, the smaller the difference between the indoor and outdoor temperatures, the lower your overall cooling bill will be. This means turning your thermostat up to 78 degrees when you’re away, and lowering the temperature only when you’re at home and need cooling.