Air conditioners use the most electricity of any home appliance. In 2005, 60% of US homes had central air conditioning. If you include room or window units, the percentage rises to 82%.1
By following the tips below, you can begin to reduce the energy consumption of your air conditioning equipment and the effect this energy usage has on the environment.
Properly maintain your air conditioner - To properly maintain your air conditioner, you should be sure to check your air filter every two months and replace it when needed, clean the evaporator coil, and clear debris from around the condenser coil. A cooling professional should check your system at the beginning of each season.
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Install a programable thermostat - Install an EnergyStar labeled programmable thermostat, and program it to change the temperature settings when you are away from home and at night. EPA estimates that EnergyStar-labeled programmable thermostats can save consumers 10-15% on heating and cooling bills when used properly.
Make sure your air conditioner is properly sized - To properly size a room air conditioner, you must first determine the square footage of the area to be cooled and then determine the correct cooling capacity. Cooling capacity is measured in British thermal units (BTUs) per hour. EnergyStar provides a BTU sizing chart at http://www.energystar.gov/index.cfm?c=roomac.pr_properly_sized.
If you are installing a central air system, we would suggest calling in a cooling professional to examine: age of the home; positioning and volume of ductwork; size of the area to be cooled; number of windows; the current level of insulation in your home; and the amount of heat generated by appliances. After considering these factors, they will be able to recommend a unit with the correct capacity.
Deciding between a central air conditioning or a room unit - When deciding between a centralized system and separate room units, as a general rule, when the majority of rooms in the house need to be cooled, a centralized system will be more efficient.
Check for air leaks - Eliminating air leaks can make your home more comfortable, reduce the risk of moisture damage, improve indoor air quality and fire safety, and help to prevent frozen water pipes. Be sure to check all doors, windows, corners, chimneys and ducts. You can either call in a professional to check your seal (recommended), or you can use tools such as incense (to check for air movement), flashlight (to identify visible cracks) and paper (to check door seals).
Consider a heat pump or an evaporative cooler - Depending on your climate, a heat pump or an evaporative cooler may provide a more energy efficient way to cool your home. Heat pumps work by transferring heat from one place to another. Evaporative coolers (swamp coolers), work by drawing warm air from the outside through a wet pad, which reduces the temperature of the air. We would suggest calling a local cooling professional to see if these options are right for your home.
Use fans across your home - Fans (stand-alone, house or attic, and ceiling) use significantly less energy than air conditioners. Fans can reduce the temperature of a room by several degrees [or make the room feel cooler to occupants].
Make sure your air conditioner uses ozone friendly refrigerants - All air conditioners use some kind of refrigerant. Before 1987, chlorofluorocarbons (CFC’s) were the standard. CFC’s have been found to deplete the ozone. Since 1987, CFC’s have since been replaced with hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFC). While HCFC does not deplete the ozone, it is a greenhouse gas. Try to find an air conditioner that uses non-greenhouse gas, ozone friendly refrigerants (such as R-410A).
Use shades and window coverings - Using shades will reduce heat gain through windows and help keep cooler air from escaping through air leaks around windows.
Shade your air conditioning unit - A shaded air conditioning unit can require up to 10% less energy to operate that a unit in the direct sun.
1Energy Information Administration. 2005 Residential Energy Consumption Survey
Excerpted from the Ultimate Guide to Greening your Home by Caelus Consulting.
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