Budgeting for electricity can be difficult. Statistically speaking, the lower your household income is, the more you’ll spend on electricity and other utility costs. If that sounds counter-intuitive, it’s not. People with lower household incomes are more likely to hang onto older, less efficient appliances. They’re also more likely to purchase less efficient new appliances. While this strategy lowers your one-time costs, it commits you to spending more on operating costs over the life of the appliance.
Heating, cooling and refrigeration are the three biggest utility consumers in your home. Window air conditioners are among the worst offenders. In a hot month, a window air conditioner can increase your cooling costs by 30%-40%. Two window air conditioners can nearly double your electric bill!
Cooling costs don’t have to break the budget
How can you lower your cooling costs without breaking the bank? Here are a few tips:
Use your window air conditioner wisely. Set limits for using your window air conditioner. Wait until later in the evening to turn on an air conditioner in your bedroom, and turn it off during the day. Use air conditioning overnight only when the low temperature doesn’t drop below 70°F or when the relative humidity is very high.
Use a fan! Residential air conditioners can consume 3.5KW per hour, and a window air conditioner can consume 500-1,500 W per hour. A ceiling fan or a window fan, on the other hand, consume less than 100 W. Some fans may use as little as 15 W. Economically, it makes more sense to use fans under certain conditions. If the nighttime temperatures drop into the 60’s and the humidity is not high, using a fan to draw in cool nighttime air can reduce your cooling costs noticeably. There are a few caveats, however.
If the humidity is high, a fan isn’t going to help much. Wet air isn’t as good at taking heat away from your skin. Worse, your carpets, flooring, walls and furniture will absorb water from the air. This could exacerbate mold and mildew problems, and it won’t feel very good. In soggy conditions, use your cooling system!
Turn the fan off when you’re not around. If you’re not home, leaving a fan on is pointless, unless you’re trying to air something out. Moving air feels good on your skin, but if you’re not at home, the fan is just moving warm air! Turn the fan off when you leave to reduce your cooling costs.
Manage humidity for cool comfort
Use a dehumidifier. Dry air absorbs water. As the humidity rises, the air becomes harder to move, and is less able to cool you down. Showering and cooking can add 3 gallons or more of water to the air in your home daily. Drying out the air again will make you feel cooler. In part, this is what air conditioning does. You can get a similar (but not the same) result by using a dehumidifier. A whole-house dehumidifier will help keep the humidity levels in your home in the comfort zone. You’ll feel better, and your air conditioning will work more efficiently, reducing your cooling costs.
Opt for more efficient appliances. If you must replace your heating and cooling system, choose the most efficient system you can afford. The more efficient your system is, the more money it will save in operating costs over its lifetime. If you buy a lower-cost, low-efficiency system, you’ve committed yourself to higher cooling costs over the long haul.
Consider a high-efficiency, ductless heating and cooling system. A ductless heating and cooling system can operate at a much higher efficiency than conventional air conditioners do. As an added bonus, you can use the system to heat your home, or supplement your heat during the winter. By reducing the use of more expensive heating systems, you can stay comfortable and save money year-round.
If you’d like more information about lowering your cooling costs, contact us at Boston Standard Company at (617) 288-2911. We can offer a range of options that will fit your budget and reduce your cooling costs!
Photo Credit: Victor, via Flickr