7 rules to save money on air conditioning this summer – CNET

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Programmable thermostats turn on your AC for you.

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Running the air conditioning can make an electricity bill skyrocket, but the alternative isn’t pretty, either. Luckily, there are a few ways that you can help your air conditioner run better and save you money as the summer months progress.

Quit cooling the neighborhood

If your home isn’t brand new, the cold air inside it is probably seeping out into the neighborhood through worn door and window seals, a poorly insulated attic and other sneaky cracks.

To see how well your home is holding in the cold, sign up for a home energy audit with your utility provider or a local contractor. A certified home energy rater or auditor will check your home for leaks and recommend the best way to make your home more energy efficient.

Don’t want to spring for an audit? Do a miniaudit yourself. Stand outside your home and run your hand along windows and doors. Can you feel the cold air escaping? If you do, caulk around leaky windows and add insulation around doors.

Make an upgrade

If you haven’t upgraded to a smart thermostat — such as Ecobee, Lyric, Lux or Nest — it’s time to make a change. Smart thermostats can regulate heating and cooling when you’re not home to save money. Plus, you can adjust the settings remotely using an app on your phone. Some even work with Amazon Alexa, Samsung SmartThings, Apple HomeKit,
Wink, Google Home and other smart home platforms. Here are the best smart thermostats of 2017 to help you make the best decision for your home.

Make sure your thermostat is on the right wall

Thermostat placement can play a big part in how well your air conditioner works. If you put it on a wall right next to a hot window, for instance, your air conditioner will kick on much more often than it needs to because it will think the room is hotter than it actually is. Here’s how to pick the perfect wall for your thermostat.

Close the blinds

A window letting in the hot sun won’t just heat up your thermostat, it’ll heat you up too. During the warmest part of the day, close your window blinds and keep out the sun. It can also help insulate your windows, which stops the cold air from escaping.

Use a fan

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A fan can help save on cooling costs.

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Sometimes you don’t need to amp up the thermostat to feel cooler. According to the National Resource Defense Council (NRDC), using a ceiling fan can make a room feel 10 degrees cooler and uses 10 percent of the energy of a central air conditioner.

If you want to get high-tech, you can install smart ceiling fans that connect to an app. You can schedule the times when these fans turn on and off, and you can control their speed without standing on your tiptoes.

Raise the temperature

Many people think that leaving the air conditioner at the same temperature when you leave the house saves money because the AC won’t need to work as hard to recool the home. This isn’t the case. NRDC senior energy policy advocate Lauren Urbanek says that the most inexpensive way to use your air conditioner is to turn the thermostat up when you leave the house.

Air conditioning systems operate most efficiently at full speed during longer periods of time. So kicking it on a lower temperature when you get home will save you more money than the AC cycling on and off while you’re away.

A programmable thermostat can make it supereasy to keep your AC at the right temperature. You can program the unit to work at higher temperatures while you’re at work and cool down right before you get home.

Setting low is a no-go

Always set your thermostat to the highest temperature you can stand to save the most money. Even a small change in the temperature can save you big bucks.

You can save 10 percent a year on your cooling bills by setting your thermostat just 10 to 15 degrees higher for eight hours each day, according to the Nebraska Energy Office. The US Department of Energy recommends aiming for an indoor temperature of 78 degrees F when you’re at home. 

Editor’s note, June 21, 2017: This article was originally published on May 19, 2016 and has been updated. 

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