We often think about high energy bills during the frigid months of winter. However, as hot summer days lie ahead, we forget that we can still see a rise in our bills as we blast air conditioners.
During the summer months, air conditioners can account for up to 50 per cent of your electricity bill. But there are some things you can do to mitigate the cost.
Anyone with central air conditioning should have a programmable thermostat. This way you can set it to run a bit warmer when you’re away from home and lower the temperature just before you return.
And a few degrees can make a big difference. Toronto Hydro suggests that homeowners with air conditioners set the thermostat to 25 C for eight hours a day and then set it to 22 C in off-peak hours. This could save you almost $20 a month.
You could even set it higher.
“Set your air conditioner temperature to 28 C when you are away and 25 C when you are home,” says Jennifer Lynes, associate professor and director of the environment and business program at the University of Waterloo. “A one degree increase in the temperature setting for your air conditioner will result in a decrease of about two percent in your electricity use.”
Also, consider turning the air conditioner off altogether when you’re not home. There’s no point in cooling a home if no one’s in it (though remember to consider any pets you may have).
If you do have central air, make sure your unit is installed in a shaded area. Those installed in a sunny area can use up to five per cent more energy.
Instead of turning on the air conditioner, consider using fans. Using a ceiling fan can save you about $20 a month.
This can make a difference especially if you have a room air conditioner. Natural Resources Canada says that room air conditioners contribute more to summer peak demand for electricity than any other household appliance.
Energy Efficient Ratio/ENERGY STAR
Canada’s Energy Efficient Ratio is used on room air conditioners to measure the efficiency of air conditioners as well as heat pumps. The larger the number, the more efficient it is. So if you’re considering buying a room air conditioner, ensure that it is rated highly.
You may already be aware of ENERGY STAR ratings, which denotes high-efficiency products. According to Natural Resources Canada, air conditioners using the ENERGY STAR qualifications use 30 to 40 per cent less energy than models from 10 to 15 years ago.
Sunlight streaming through your window can really heat up your home.
“Shut those blinds and curtains, particularly on west-facing windows,” Lynes advises.
“Closing the curtains on hot days can really keep your house cool.”
While we tend to think of weather stripping our windows to keep heat in during the winter months, we should also consider it during the summer, said Lynes.
“In fact, weatherstripping houses can reduce cooling costs by 20 per cent,” she says.
It’s summer, so what better way to save energy than use the sun and some fresh air?
You can put your clothes out to dry on a balcony or in your backyard on a clothesline.
“Get that ‘summer breeze’ smell on your clothes for free by hanging them to dry outside,” Lynes recommends. “In this weather, your clothes will dry pretty quickly.”
Turning on an oven or stove is a double-whammy: Not only are you using energy to cook, but you’re also heating your home on a day when you’re fighting to cool it.
On those hot summer days, consider using the microwave to cook. Or, you could cook on your barbecue.
Once the sun sets, temperatures drop. So, rather than keep an air conditioner running all night, open the windows instead. You can enjoy a cool breeze and some fresh, natural air as you sleep.
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