How You Can Save Money on Your Summer Cooling Bills
Summer cooling bills can make a big dent in your seasonal budget. To save money on air conditioning and increase your summertime fun fund, try these top ways to cut cooling costs and reduce your Indianapolis electric bill. Williams Comfort Air shares what to do to maximize air conditioner efficiency this season and beyond.
Average Summer Cooling Costs in Indiana
The average U.S. family spends $2,000 each year on energy costs. Cooling costs account for about 16 percent of residential energy consumption, or $320 out of the $2,000 spent on annual home energy bills.
Average Electricity Costs in Indiana
Conventional air conditioning and heat pump cooling systems operate using electricity. Indiana homeowners pay on average 12.38 cents per kilowatt hour (kWh) of electricity consumed, which is below the national average of 13.34 cents per kWh. Monthly electric costs for Hoosier homeowners run on average $115.01, paying the 21st highest monthly electric bill in the country.
Indiana households consume on average 928 kWh of electricity each month. Of course, your air conditioner isn’t the only thing in the house contributing to electricity usage – lights, electronics, kitchen appliances, and other systems and devices all add to the monthly electric bill.
Estimating Cooling Expenses
To estimate how much electricity your home’s air conditioner consumes, you’ll need to know the size of your air conditioner and how many hours per day it runs. A central air conditioner uses an average of one kWh each hour per ton. Tonnage does not represent equipment weight, but the unit’s cooling capacity.
How Many Tons Is My Air Conditioner?
To figure out how many tons your air conditioner is, take a look at the model number. Within this long string of numbers, you’ll find a two-digit even number (or it may be three digits, starting with a zero, depending on the manufacturer). This number states the unit’s BTU (British Thermal Unit), which is a measure used to reflect how much heat the unit can remove from the home in one hour.
For residential air conditioners, this number is typically between 18 and 60, which represents how many thousand BTUs of heat the unit can remove. Thus, a unit with 18 in the model number is 18,000 BTU; 30 is 30,000 BTU. Divide that number by 12,000 to find out the tonnage of your equipment – an 18,000 BTU unit is 1.5 tons; a 30,000 BTU unit is 2.5 tons.
Determine Air Conditioner Operating Time
To estimate how long your air conditioner runs each day, track how long it runs for one hour in the heat of the day and one hour after dark. Multiply both numbers by 12, add the numbers together, and divide by 60 to figure an estimate of the system’s daily run time in hours.
- The air conditioner runs 25 minutes total for the hour measured in the middle of the day, and 12 minutes total during the hour recorded after dark.
- Multiply both numbers by 12 – 25 x 12 = 300; 12 x 12 = 144.
- Add the two numbers – 300 + 144 = 444.
- Divide by 60 – 444 / 60 = 7.4.
- Your air conditioner is estimated to run 7.4 hours per day.
How Much Electricity Does Air Conditioning Use?
If your home has a 24,000 BTU (2 ton) air conditioner, assume it uses 2 kWh of electricity each hour. Using the example above, let’s say your air conditioner runs 7.4 hours each day.
- 4 hours x 2.5 kWh per hour = 18.5 kWh per day.
- 5 kWh per day x 30 days = 555 kWh per month.
Based on the average Indiana electric rate of 12.38 cents per kWh, air conditioning electricity use costs $68.71 per month, which is over half the average home’s monthly kWh usage and billing cost.
Feel free to run the formulas above to estimate your air conditioner’s average monthly electricity consumption and cost. It’s safe to say that in most homes, air conditioners are the leading consumers of electricity and will account for the majority of the monthly bill. With the majority of your monthly electric bill owed due to cooling costs, it definitely pays to find ways to lower your air conditioner’s energy consumption!
Temperature Settings for Energy Savings
Your home’s thermostat is a great help when it comes to cutting down the amount of electricity your air conditioner uses. The lower you set its temperature, the more the air conditioner will have to run to bring down the temperature in the home. To avoid unnecessary energy costs, choose a temperature setpoint that provides comfort inside without overworking the cooling system by limiting the difference between indoor and outdoor temperatures.
The U.S. Department of Energy recommends that homeowners set their thermostats to 78 degrees when cooling the home. When it’s 85 degrees outside, your air conditioner has far less work to do to cool indoor areas to 78 degrees than 70 degrees, which means your energy costs will be lower.
Energy-Smart Thermostat Tips
Asides from picking an energy-smart temperature setting for your home, knowing how to use your thermostat to maximize energy conservation will make a significant dent in your electric bills. This season, use your thermostat wisely to increase summer savings:
- Adjust your programmable thermostat’s schedules for summer. While about 27.4 million U.S. homes use a programmable thermostat with a central air conditioning system, only one in eight of those households use it properly. In the summer, a family’s daily schedule often changes, so this is the right time of year to review your daily temperature schedules to make sure your thermostat programs correctly reflect when your home is occupied.
- Program energy-saving setback periods. When the home is unoccupied or even while the family is asleep, you have a built-in opportunity to cut cooling usage. During the workday or overnight for example, set the temperature higher than what you would normally set it at while your family is at home and active. Adjusting the temperature 7 to 10 degrees higher than usual for periods of eight hours or more each day can cut energy expenses by 10 percent.
- Don’t turn your thermostat temperature down extremely low in hopes of faster cooling. When entering a hot home, some homeowners crank down the temperature, thinking that their air conditioners will cool the space faster when at a lower temperature setting. However, doing so doesn’t make your air conditioner cool the home any faster – all it does is force the air conditioner to work toward cooling the home to a lower temperature than normal. It will still take the same amount of time to hit your usual indoor temperature, but it’s likely that you’ll forget you adjusted the temperature and you’ll waste energy cooling your home to a much lower setpoint.
- Use vacation or hold modes when leaving town. Programmable thermostats have a vacation or hold mode that allows you to pause the programmed settings and adjust the temperature without disrupting those set schedules. Use this feature to stop regular temperature adjustments when your family will be out of the home for summer trips. Adjust the temperature several degrees higher than your normal occupied settings – don’t turn the air conditioner off, as you want it to run occasionally to control humidity as well as maintain a comfortable and safe environment for any indoor pets.
What to Do on Super Hot Days
On hot days, air conditioners sometimes struggle to keep homes cool. When outdoor temperatures are higher than normal, the air conditioner has a larger temperature differential to cover between the outdoor temperature and your set indoor temperature. Most residential air conditioners are designed to operate efficiently in outdoor temperatures up to 95 degrees – so when a heat wave arrives, your air conditioner may need some help from you to limit energy waste.
While you cannot make your air conditioner work faster, you can help reduce its load so it doesn’t have to work as much. For more efficient indoor cooling on a hot summer day, focus on controlling heat gain in the home:
- Make sure doors and windows are shut tight. Weatherstripping isn’t just for preventing chilly winter drafts – it’s also useful in the summertime to keep heat from infiltrating your living areas and causing cooled air to escape.
- Close curtains and blinds during the day. Thermal heat from the Sun’s rays can cause rooms to become hotter, increasing the burden on your air conditioner. Close window coverings to block direct sunlight. If you don’t want your home to be so dark, keep windows covered that face south throughout the day, cover east-facing windows in the morning and west-facing windows in the afternoon to block sunlight as the Sun changes positions in the sky.
- Make sure all vents throughout the home are opened. Many vent covers have louvers that allow you to open and shut the vent, and many homeowners believe shutting vents in unused areas of the home is best for cutting summer cooling bills. This is actually an energy savings myth that not only causes discomfort in the home, but can damage your air conditioning system. Your home’s air conditioner is sized to cool a specific amount of area – closing vents doesn’t stop the air conditioner from producing cool air for that space, it simply keeps that conditioned air trapped within the duct system. This increase of pressure can damage your duct system and cause air leaks as well as air conditioner energy waste. Keep vents open so your living areas receive the full amount of cooling created by your air conditioner.
- Take care not to add heat to the indoor environment. Activities such as baking in the oven, taking a hot shower, running the dryer or dishwasher, and other daily tasks produce heat, which raises indoor temperatures. Thus, your air conditioner has more work to do to eliminate that heat from your space. Save these activities for after dark when it’s cooler outside, or try alternatives such as grilling meals outdoors and hanging laundry to dry in the breeze.
In addition to preventing heat gain in the home, help your body feel cooler by:
- Using ceiling fans in rooms that are occupied. Set your ceiling fans to spin counterclockwise during the summer. As the blades rotate, the fan produces a downdraft, creating a breeze across your skin. With air moving over your skin, any moisture is evaporated at a faster pace – your body feels cooler without moisture trapping heat in. The wind chill effect produced by ceiling fans only benefits how you feel, it doesn’t actually lower the temperature of the room – be sure to turn off fans when leaving a room to avoid additional energy waste. Proper use of ceiling fans can help you stay comfortable while turning back air conditioning temperatures as much as 4 degrees!
- Dressing smart. Wear fewer layers to avoid insulating your body. Where comfortable, choose clothing that leaves more skin exposed – this creates more surface area for heat to transfer away from your body as you sweat. Consider your fabric choices as well – cotton is lightweight and more breathable than synthetic fabrics.
Changing Habits Conserves Energy
The above tips for extremely hot days are helpful even on the milder ones, too. To cut back on cooling usage and air conditioning bills throughout the summer, implement changes like the following for the entire season.
- Make sure your air conditioner is tuned up for the summer. Professional maintenance corrects system issues causing the air conditioner to draw more electricity as it runs and operate at reduced efficiency levels.
- Arrange for air conditioner repairs when needed. Anytime you notice reduced performance or other issues from your air conditioner unit, call for professional repairs. Issues with the system and its components often cause increased energy consumption, which can be avoided with timely repairs.
- Change the HVAC filter as needed. During the summer, you’ll likely find a new filter is needed more frequently than other times of the year. This is due to the fact your HVAC system is operating for more hours of the day to keep your home comfortable while outdoor temperatures are high. Increased air circulation means the filter will fill with contaminants faster, requiring replacement.
- Clean your thermostat. Dust and dirt can settle on sensors, causing the thermostat to misread surrounding temperatures. It could signal your air conditioner to run when it’s not necessary, or lead to longer cooling cycles that aren’t warranted.
- Keep the outdoor air conditioning unit clear from blockages. Debris and outdoor items can restrict airflow through the unit which is necessary for heat exchange. Without it, the air conditioner expends more energy to get the job done.
- Use exhaust fans to expel hot and humid air produced by cooking, bathing, and chores. Operate them only while these activities take place and for a short period after to avoid sending your cold air out of the home, too.
- Choose window coverings that are white or light in color. These shades reflect sunlight and its heat away from the home – dark colored materials absorb light as well as the heat it brings.
- Turn off unused lights. Even energy efficient LED light bulbs produce some heat, while CFLs give off more and old, incandescent light bulbs emit noticeable heat. Eliminate electricity waste by limiting the power used by lights and preventing heat gain which creates more work for the air conditioner.
- Leave doors throughout the home open. This allows cool air to freely flow throughout your living areas. Increased airflow helps the home stay cooler.
- On cool nights, use the thermostat’s hold feature to pause your air conditioning system and open windows. Open windows that are positioned across from each other to gain a cross breeze that pushes hot air out of the home and create cooler indoor spaces overnight.
- Turn down the thermostat on your water heater. The appliance itself will use less energy heating water to a lower temperature and give off less heat that warms your living areas.
Need a New Air Conditioner? Which Brand to Choose?
Older air conditioners typically lack in energy efficiency. First off, their efficiency declines as time goes on and the system sustains wear. Secondly, units made years ago weren’t as efficient to begin with as newer models! Replacing your air conditioner is a surefire way to save money on cooling bills this summer.
Air conditioner energy efficiency is measured by SEER, which stands for seasonal energy efficiency ratio. The minimum SEER allowed for new air conditioners installed in Indiana is currently 13 SEER, but models are available with SEER ratings into the 20s. The higher the SEER, the more efficient the air conditioner.
Williams Comfort Air is a proud Carrier Factory Authorized Dealer, providing Central Indiana homeowners with a great selection of new air conditioning equipment built by our industry’s most trusted name! Carrier offers an extensive line of central air conditioning systems up to 26 SEER for maximum energy efficiency, with a range of options to meet your needs and budget.
If your home is in need of a new air conditioner this year, turn to the team at Williams Comfort Air for your new Carrier air conditioning system. Our Comfort Consultants will help you understand your equipment options and choose the right model for your home. Our NATE-certified installation team provides careful technical services to put your new air conditioner into service and ensure it operates at its highest efficiency.
For Summer Cooling Help, Call Williams Comfort Air
Whether your Indianapolis home is ready for a new cooling system or your existing air conditioner needs some help to operate at its best, Williams Comfort Air is here to keep you cool all season long! Our NATE-certified air conditioning technicians perform comprehensive repairs and maintenance for all air conditioning equipment models, and emergency service is available when your household is stuck with the heat. As a Carrier Factory Authorized Dealer, our team ensures quality installation of your new, top of the line Carrier cooling system. For air conditioning installation, repairs, or maintenance, contact us now!