How to Cut Costs with Air Conditioning

by David Ning · 12 comments

Having an air conditioner can significantly increase your utility costs during the summer. Gone are the days of opening windows and putting up with the heat. Homes are usually built with central air incorporated unless you are fortunate enough to live in a cool and dry climate year round. If you want to save some money and still enjoy your air conditioner, here are some ideas.

Window Mounted Units

Contrary to popular opinion, bigger is not always better when it comes to air conditioning. Figure out the square footage of the room before you purchase, but take into consideration higher than normal ceilings and the amount of sunlight that enters from windows. A larger unit takes more energy to power.

If you have a fan in the room, use it even when the air conditioner is on. The fan helps circulate air in the room, cooling it more efficiently. Additionally, moving air feels cooler than still air, so you can get away with a higher temperature and still feel comfortable.

How to Save with a Central Air Conditioning Unit

These big units are generally mounted outside on a concrete pad and are hooked up to the same duct work used by your heating system. If you are purchasing a new unit, look for one that has a high seasonal energy efficiency rating (SEER) for maximum savings. The slight increases in cost will more than pay for itself over a couple of years.

Keep debris and greenery away from the unit. This keeps the outside fans running smoothly, reducing wear and tear as well as optimizing efficiency. Cover the unit during the cold months to keep it free of leaves, snow and other materials.

General Suggestions to Save on Air Conditioning Costs

Getting good equipment that is the right size for your room or home is the first step towards savings. For either type of unit, cleanliness is critical for maximum efficiency. Filters can be found either at the front of a window unit or in the duct work of a central unit. Clean them regularly to ensure good air flow.

Editor’s Note: Time and time again, I see homes with extremely dirty filters. These filters need to be replaced twice a year under normal use, and failure to do so will not only reduce the life of the air conditioning unit, but increase your monthly electricity bill too. They are easy to change, so change them out if you haven’t done so in a while.

Close Doors

If you have a window-based unit, it is only meant to cool a certain room so close the door to prevent overworking the air conditioner. With central air, consider shutting vents and closing doors to rooms that don’t need cooling regularly. The less the unit needs to cool the less energy used.

Use Foliage to Keep Heat Out

Use drapes and greenery to reduce the amount of passive solar energy you need to combat. Trees and bushes outside help keep the outside of the house cool, reducing the heat inside. Drapes shut out sunlight during the hot months and can be opened in the cold months to reduce heating costs as well.

Install a Whole House Fan

Consider installing a whole house fan. These fans do a terrific job of moving air through the house. In my home, I use the fan all summer long, pulling cooler air up from the basement and generating a light breeze throughout the house. As the temperatures drop in the evening the house cools off nicely.

Having an air conditioner and saving money may not seem possible, but with a little effort you can cut your cooling bill dramatically.

Like these tips? Check out more with your free copy of the How to Save Money on Everything ebook, available via the free frugal newsletter.

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{ read the comments below or add one }

  • Even the most energy efficient air conditioning unit needs to be used and operated properly to ensure that it stays that way. A significant factor to keep in mind is that proper insulation around outside doors and windows helps reduce cold air loss and prevents the unit from cycling on and off. If the unit can remain at a steady temperature, then this will drastically help lower your costs. – Bill

  • Orlando Air Conditioning Services says:

    The window mounted units are sometimes exactly what’s needed to save money during the hot months.

  • Also make sure to check out all your options with a contractor for what suits your house.

  • I’m a contractor in Orlando. When you are talking about saving money on cooling costs, the room by room air conditions are 100% the way to go. I end up delivering and installing more of these over summer than you can imagine.

  • CD Phi says:

    With Summer fast approaching, we might consider getting a whole house fan as opposed to an entire air conditioning unit or central AC. Our house’s floor plan is not made to have a small ac unit out the window so we’ve had to consider other options. The fan sounds like it is eco-friendly as well and may use less energy than an AC unit. For now, we also use a portable fan that really seems to help give us a breeze but it’s not really cool air.

  • Forex Manager says:

    There are gadgets available which automatically turns on the fan when the airconditioning unit turns off. This is especially helpful during night time. There can be huge savings when the gadget is used properly.

    • kyriloz says:

      Where might one get such a device and what is it called? I would like to leave the AC fan on for a few minutes after the compressor has shut off as the unit’s cooling coils are still cold and can continue to send out cool air.

  • Shaun McGowan says:

    Install a programmable thermostat so you can vary the temperature according to when you’re home. Set it to 78 degrees when you’re home. If you’ll be gone for more than a few hours, it makes sense to set the air conditioning at 85 degrees while you’re gone.

  • Vicky says:

    Unless you are living in the desert states where you will literally get sick from the heat, most people should just turn off their ACs and just find a way to survive. You will live, and the money you save can be put to other, much better uses.

  • All of these are good tips to cut some of your summer cooling costs. Also remember you can wear light clothes that can help you ward off the heat. Also drinking ice water can help your body feel cooler.

    While its hard to imagine, 40 years ago few homes had AC. People learned to live without it. Not recommending that is the way to go, however, after a while your body seems to adjust. So if you bump up your thermostat gradually, you can ease into things.

    • MoneyNing says:

      Drinking ice water is a great idea. Also, try buying a tiny fan (even those desktop ones will do), and see if you still need to turn on the A/C. It’s amazing how much cooler you feel when there’s air flowing in the room.

    • kyriloz says:

      40 years ago it did not get this hot. Not everything was paved over with concrete and asphalt which absorbs lots of hear vs deflecting it with green space.
      Then there was not global warming which has raised the temperatures several degrees due to the lack of greenery which was replaced with parking lots and concrete building.

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