It’s a given that electricity costs will inevitably increase in the summer. Fortunately, there are several ways to keep cooling costs under control. One of them is to switch your air conditioner to the “auto” setting.
Bill Reynolds Heating & Air Conditioning, your trusted cooling and heating service company, elaborates on how AC fan settings work and how they can help reduce electricity costs below:
What Your Air Conditioner’s Fan Settings Mean
- “Auto” setting – This is the most energy-efficient fan setting. When your air conditioner is on “auto”, its fan will only run when your AC is cooling your home. When indoor temperatures reach a comfortable level, the unit automatically shuts itself off, which helps households conserve electricity. And as an added benefit, the filters on AC units that are set to “auto” don’t need to have their air filters changed as often because they’re only used when needed.
- “On” setting – The blower fan on an AC unit on the “on” fan setting is constantly running even after indoor temperatures have reached a comfortable level. This not only increases household electricity costs, but also increases the strain on your AC unit, increasing the risk of breakdowns.
How to Lower Cooling Costs in the Summer
In addition to switching your air conditioner to the “auto” setting, what are the best ways to lower cooling costs and keep your air conditioner running efficiently?
- Schedule routine AC inspections – We recommend scheduling an inspection at least once a year. Through routine inspections, technicians can detect and fix potential issues before they can cause breakdowns. Remember: The sooner AC issues are detected and air conditioning repair is conducted, the better.
- Keep lamps and other heat sources away from your thermostat – The heat from the lamp may prompt your thermostat to unnecessarily lower indoor temperatures.
Here’s a tip: If you want to improve your HVAC system’s energy efficiency, a programmable thermostat is a smart investment. It can be set to adjust the temperature at certain times of the day to ensure optimal indoor comfort and energy efficiency. For instance, you can program your smart thermostat to gradually increase the temperature when you’re away at work, then lower it back down again so that by the time you get back home, indoor temperatures have returned to a comfortable level.
- Routinely change the air filter – As a general rule, if you don’t have allergies, we recommend changing your air conditioner’s filter every 90 days. However, if you have pets at home, you’ll need to replace your filter more frequently. This is because pet dander can easily clog filters. In general, if you have a pet at home, it’s highly recommended that you replace your AC’s air filter every 60 days.
- Keep blinds and curtains closed – According to the Department of Energy, heat gain and heat loss through windows are responsible for 25% to 30% of your heating and cooling costs. To prevent heat from the sun from entering your house and increasing the strain on your air conditioner, you should keep your blinds and curtains closed.
- Remove furniture near air vents – If you’ve noticed hot spots in your house, check if there’s any furniture blocking the air vents. If the vents are blocked, they won’t be able to distribute cool air evenly throughout your home.
- Have your HVAC system’s ductwork inspected and insulated – What if there isn’t any air coming out of the air vents despite the fact that there’s nothing blocking airflow? Leaky ductwork is a possible culprit in this case. Cool air could be leaking out of the holes in the ductwork. If you suspect there’s a leak in your ductwork, don’t hesitate to contact your local cooling and heating service company.
- Remove weeds around your AC’s condenser unit – The condenser unit is the component that’s responsible for turning pressurized refrigerant vapor into its liquid form. If there are weeds near the condenser unit, the condensing coil will have a harder time expelling heat into the outdoors. This in turn will force the condensing coil to work harder to expel heat and will increase the risk of damage.
How much clearance should you leave around your HVAC unit? A good rule of thumb is to leave at least 12 inches of clearance on all sides of your HVAC unit. However, the recommended amount of clearance space will depend on what’s surrounding the HVAC unit. For instance, the recommended amount of clearance space for shrubbery is six inches, provided it isn’t too dense. (Keep in mind that since shrubbery tends to grow fast, you should inspect the clearance space between them and your unit every week). Dense walls, on the other hand, would require 16 to 18 inches of space between them and the outdoor unit.
How to Tell If It’s Time to Replace Your Air Conditioner
If you notice a consistent spike in your utility bills despite not using your AC system any more than usual, it might be time for an air conditioner replacement. As your AC ages, its performance and efficiency drop. AC units have an average lifespan of 10 to 15 years. If your AC unit is greater than 15 years old, you might want to consider looking for a new unit.
In addition to higher utility bills and your HVAC unit’s age, what other warning signs you should keep an eye out for?
- Foul smells – Burning smells are never a good sign. If you smell smoke or a burning smell, turn off your AC immediately and contact your local air conditioning repair contractor.
- Unusual sounds – Strange noises coming from your AC are always a cause for concern. Rattling or banging noises are usually a sign that some of your AC’s components have become loose or worn.
- Hot or cold spots– These are usually a sign your AC isn’t as efficient as it used to be. Keep in mind there are other factors (like a dirty air filter or blocked vents) that could be causing extreme differences in temperature. That’s why if you notice hot or cold spots in your house, it’s best to have an AC and furnace installation contractor conduct a comprehensive inspection.
- Repeated cycling – Repeated cycling (the turning on and off of your AC) is a cause for concern because it can wear out your AC’s sensitive components and shorten its lifespan. There are two possible reasons why an AC will keep cycling on and off: either the unit’s capacity is too much for your house or it needs urgent repair.
What to Look for in a New AC
When searching for a new AC unit, look for the ENERGY STAR® label. Only appliances with this label have met the performance standards set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Energy.
Here are some features you may also want to consider:
- Check-filter lights – If you often forget to replace your AC’s air filter, we recommend looking for an AC unit with check-filter lights that will automatically remind you when it’s time to replace the air filter.
- Sleep-mode feature – You’ll be able to sleep better in a room with a lower temperature. (Your body temperature is about one to two degrees lower at night.) However, if it gets too cold, you may be jolted awake. To make sure excessively cold temperatures don’t interrupt your sleep, an AC with a sleep-mode feature will slightly raise the temperature in your room at night.
- Oscillating fan vents – Oscillating vents help keep room temperatures even by sweeping cool air from side to side to distribute it evenly throughout the space.
For more tips, consult an experienced HVAC technician.
Bill Reynolds Heating & Air Conditioning is a local, family-owned and -operated business that’s been serving local residents since 1958. We offer a wide range of professional heating and cooling services, including AC and furnace installation. To request a quote, call us at (440) 946-7863 or fill out this form.