Keeping Cool... and Green
Gavin St. Ours/Flickr
While good ol' ventilation is still the most environmentally-friendly and cost effective way to cool your home, not everyone is lucky enough to have lots of strategically placed windows to catch the least bit of cross breeze.
Two-thirds of all homes in the United States have air conditioners. Air conditioners use about 5% of all the electricity produced in the United States, at an annual cost of more than $11 billion to homeowners. So when the weather warms up we should do everything we can to conserve energy as we keep cool. That means treating our air conditioners the same way we treat other energy-demanding appliances: by using them wisely and keeping them running efficiently. Here are some tips to help:
- Invest in an energy-efficient air conditioner. If you're buying a new air conditioner, choose one for maximum energy efficiency. New air conditioners come labeled with an Energy Efficiency Rating (EER), a standard that lets you calculate how much electricity the air conditioner will consume. The higher the EER, the less it will cost you to operate the appliance to achieve the same level of cooling.
Learn more about how different types of air conditioners stack up with the EPA's Energy Saver 101 home cooling infographic, which also includes handy best practices for keeping your AC in top shape.
- Avoid overcooling. Don't use or buy more cooling equipment capacity than you actually need. If you decide on central air conditioning, select the most energy-efficient unit that will cool the size space you have. Bigger is not better. A larger unit than you need will cost more to run and may not remove enough humidity from the air, the feature that some consumers like most about air conditioners.
- Keep your cooling system well tuned. Have it professionally maintained, and ask how the energy efficiency of the system may be increased. Remember to replace the air filter regularly.
- Install a whole-house ventilating fan. This can be put in your attic or in an upstairs window to cool the house, even if you have central air conditioning. According to Consumer Reports, a big fan working under the right conditions can cool and ventilate an entire house for about the energy cost of running an air conditioner in one room.
- Set your thermostat as high as possible. 78 degrees Farenheit is often recommended as a reasonably comfortable and energy-efficient indoor temperature.
- Draw the blinds. Reduce the need for the A/C by keeping shades drawn, especially on south-facing windows.
- Program the thermostat. Set the thermostat higher during the day when no one is in your house or apartment.