If there’s one thing that marks the start of summer it’s cranking the AC on for the first time since the start of the new year. Feeling that cool climate control immediately makes the thought of 3+ months of heat more bearable.
But then the next thought shifts to the electricity bill.
Despite using lights less and spending more time outside, summer is a time when electricity bills spike in many parts of the country. The energy it takes to air condition homes is the reason for summer peak electricity usage. The HVAC is a high usage appliance that can use 1kWh of electricity per ton per hour. It ends up costing homeowners $11 billion a year to run air conditioners.
The good news is you don’t have to sweat it out this summer. There are ways you can improve efficiency so your home stays cooler without costing more than necessary.
The Best Way to Air Condition is With a Programmable Thermostat
By now, we’ve all seen a programmable thermostat at some point. That small box on the wall gives you complete control over a high usage appliance right down to when it turns on and off. Unfortunately, many homeowners don’t use their programmable thermostat as intended.
A 2015 study highlighted just how misunderstood programmable thermostats are. Of those surveyed who had a programmable thermostat, 39% either didn’t know where the settings were located or didn’t know how to use them.
Don’t worry if you’re in that large group. The tips below will help you get a handle on common programmable thermostat problems.
- Get the operating manual online. This should be the first step if you don’t have a physical copy.
- Become familiar with your thermostat’s settings. The manual should explain what each button and setting does.
- Make sure the thermostat isn’t in the “permanent hold” mode. This basically turns the device into a manual thermostat because it overrides all of the settings.
- Check the time and date. These settings need to be correct in order to create schedules.
But the question remains, what temperature should the thermostat be set at?
The answer depends on what the temperature is normally set at inside. Experts at Energy.gov suggest that homeowners bump the temperature up by 7-10 degrees for at least eight hours to reduce energy use by 10%. The rule of thumb is to try to set the temperature no lower than 78 degrees at any time.
Essentially, the closer the temperature inside is to the outside the less energy you will use. A programmable thermostat can be used to automatically increase the temperature in the middle of the day during the week when you’re at work as well as at night while you’re sleeping. These are the times when you are less likely to notice the difference or may not feel it at all.
If you’re worried that bumping the temperature up will make the entire family less comfortable, turn on the fans. Fans use less energy and can make a room feel four degrees cooler. Also, make sure the entire family knows that the thermostat settings are not to be changed or turned off.
Does all this seem like a lot to figure out? Then it may be time for a smart thermostat that can do the programming for you.
Placement of the thermostat is also extremely important. If the thermostat is right next to a window or in direct sunlight for hours the internal sensors won’t read the room temperature accurately. It will consistently think the house is warmer than it actually is and cause the AC to stay on longer than needed.
The best place to put the programmable thermostat is on an internal wall that’s not in direct sunlight, next to a vent, near a light or by a major appliance. The goal is to place the thermostat where it can get the most accurate temperature reading possible.
BONUS: The programmable thermostat can also help you use 10% less energy in the winter when you heat your home.
Maintaining Your AC System This Summer
Now that you’ve got the programmable thermostat set up and reducing energy use don’t let the savings go to waste. HVAC systems that aren’t properly maintained are less efficient no matter how you use them.
The most important maintenance measures include:
- Cleaning or replacing air filters – This quick step can improve efficiency by 15%.
- Sealing ducts – Eliminating air loss at the ducts can reduce energy use by as much as 30%.
- Annual professional servicing – It’s a good idea to have the HVAC system serviced once a year to ensure all the components are clean and functional.
As you can see, there’s no need to choose between air conditioning and discomfort. Using your programmable thermostat and taking certain maintenance measures can make air conditioning much more affordable even in the middle of a scorching summer.
Now that the northeast is heating up it’s the perfect time to check out the latest electricity plans from Major Energy. We provide stability throughout the year with fixed rates that make bills more predictable. Use your zip code to select a plan in your area.