It's Hot and your AC is tired

AC Cooling Efficiency

Hot enough to Melt Witches

The past week in Atlanta has been hot.  They don't call this city Hotlanta for nothin'.  And we aren't like those lucky Arizonians.  We don't have the luxury of "dry heat".  Our heat is dripping.  It was almost too hot to sit in the pool yesterday.  The water was so warm that I think I was sweating after my Michael Phelps impression (for those watching, I was going so slow because it was my Michael Phelps on marijuana impression).

So it was great hanging out in my nice, air-conditioned town-home.  The only problem with AC is that it consumes a lot of power, and when it is constantly around 95° F the electricity is pumping.

To lower your energy consumption due to air-conditioning you really only have two options:  buy a more efficient air conditioner or adapt how you are living to use yours more efficiently.  To learn about getting a new Energy Star air conditioner, check out their website.  To learn how to adapt your usage to cut down on those high cooling bills, keep reading.

I think there are three main things you can do to stay cooler in the hot summer months:

1)  Control your thermostat!

- This is probably one of the easiest ways to save the most money.  One of the first blogs I wrote was trying to encourage people to use their programmable thermostat.  If you don't have a programmable thermostat, get one.  If you have one, get better at using it.  That means adjusting your temperature setpoints to reflect your lifestyle.  If you leave for work at 8 and get back at 6, set your thermostat to a higher temperature (say 78) for the time you are gone, then program it to the temperature you want to come home to and tell it to turn on around 5:15 so your house will be nice and cool for you.  It is not, I repeat, IT IS NOT more efficient to just let your AC run all day when you are not there.  Program your thermostat to turn off (or at least set it at a higher temperature) when you don't need it on!!!

2) Use fans throughout your house!

- As I've said before, I'm a fan of fans. In the springtime you can open windows and use fans and you wont have to rely on AC, but when it is super hot outside you need the AC on so you don't want to open your windows, but having fans on will still help.  Having a fan on will allow you to keep your thermostat at a higher temperature, requiring your AC to work less.  Now, this is assuming you have an efficient fan and the energy required to run the fan is less than the energy required to keep your AC a few degrees cooler.  But if having a fan on will allow you to keep your AC at 76 as opposed to 72, I'm pretty sure you'll be saving a lot of energy.  Pull out that old desktop fan if you work in your home office or install some ceiling fans!

3) Check your duct work !

- If you have central AC then you have duct work that runs through the innards of your house and into each room.  If you have a leak in this duct work you are cooling the inside of your house.  Not very efficient!  Check any exposed duct work in your attic or basement and make sure there are no leaks.  If there are, insulate them.

So there aren't any earth shattering tips here, but most of energy conservation isn't.  It really just takes a lot of attention to your thermostat and surroundings.  Find that setting where you are comfortable, and keep it there.  If you aren't at home, turn everything off.  In a few years it will be commonplace to control your AC from your cell phone, but until then, be vigilant!

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What do you think? I live in Florida where summer temps stay around 90-105. I have a programmable t-stat, and when I'm home, set temp is usually around 76-78. When I'm at work, the set temp is at 85, as a way for me to save on energy, and by the time I'm back from home, my place is 78ish again, (Depending on what time I arrive home). My question is: The temperature needs to drop at least 7 degrees (from 85 down to 78/76), which can take anywhere from 1-3 hours of constant run time. Does this period of time drive my electric bill up considerably due to such long run time, even though it is off for at least 8 hours the day? Common sense tells me that it is more efficient to run it with the program set to 85 during the day. Usually the outdoor temp is just as hot out in the evening as it is during the day, less the radiant heat from direct sun. Am I wrong with my reasoning?
Chris, a lot of people have that same question, but I'm pretty sure that what you are doing is the right thing to do. Even though the AC has to work for 1-3 hours straight to get it to the right temperature, it would be doing the same thing if you kept it running all day, but it would be doing more of it. Let's do a mind exercise: Let's say instead of going to work, you had to go on a week (or a month, or a year) vacation. Wouldnt it be way smarter to turn your AC to 85 while you are on that vacation instead of having your AC cycle on/off cooling your home for the entire week while you aren't there? So your scenario is the same thing, just a smaller time scale.
Thanks for the post. Another thing about fans is that a lot of people just think that they "circulate the hot air," and true, while they're not necessarily making the air cooler, they ARE continuously blowing the hot air off the body. So yes, one needs to be in the room for a fan to get its real benefits, but if you are in the room, it is helping!
I run my AC at 65 all the time. Fortunately for me my building pays the electrical bill so I can be cool, be anti-green, and not pay anything!
Actually, don't just insulate! Masticate! (not a dirty word!) That is, apply duct mastic to the little cracks in your duct work. It's like a combination of putty and cement and it removes mass air flow loss before wrapping the duct work in insulation. Also, don't use just any old insulation on your ducts, use a duct blanket. It's insulating, and self adhering. I want to get up in my attic and do this, but not when it's 120° up there.

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