Keep cool and save money on air conditioning too. Here are the five best ways to cut costs and improve your AC system.


Overview: Costs and savings

Staying cool is expensive. In a hot climate like Texas, the average family spends about $600 a year on cooling. In the Midwest, it’s about $300. But costs vary a lot within regions and even within a single neighborhood. Your home may cost $700 to keep cool while a similar home next door costs half that. This article will help you make your home the low-cost energy leader on the block. Our focus is on cutting cooling costs, but many of these tips will save you money on your heating too.


Tip 1

Replace your old air conditioner

Replacing a 10-year-old window or central AC unit with an Energy Star model can cut your cooling costs by 30 to 50 percent and save you enough over the new unit’s lifetime to offset its purchase price. This is especially true if you live in a hot, humid climate. Central AC units are rated for efficiency according to their Seasonal Energy- Efficiency Ratio (SEER). Window units are rated according to their Energy-Efficiency Ratio (EER). The SEER/EER rating is listed on the Energy Guide label (below). The higher the number, the more efficient the unit. If you double your SEER (or EER), you can cut your AC operating costs in half. To find the rating on an older unit, check the data label or plug the model number into the online CEE-ARI database at energystar.gov on the Central Air Conditioners page. New units are required by law to have a SEER of at least 13 and an EER of 8. Central AC units manufactured from 1992 through 2005 have a SEER of about a 10, and older models are at 6 or 7.

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Tip 2

Tune and clean your AC regularly

A poorly maintained air conditioner uses 10 to 30 percent more energy and has a shorter life. Central AC compressors last on average about 10 to 12 years. Proper maintenance can extend that to 20 years. It’s important to have a professional tune, clean and check controls and refrigerant levels on your central AC system every two to three years. If your refrigerant needs recharging, this correction can improve efficiency by 20 percent. It’s also important to perform DIY maintenance each year. We are offering a $60 Tune Up Special April Tune Up Special


Tip 3

Keep cool with shade. Plant a Tree or Two

Cut AC costs through your own sweat equity by shading your house with trees, trellises, and vines. Shading blocks direct sunlight through the roof and windows, which is responsible for about half of the heat gain in your home. Carefully positioned trees and horizontal trellises on the east and west sides can save up to 30 percent of a household’s energy consumption for heating and cooling. For an average household, that’s $100 to $250 in energy costs annually.


Tip 4

Clean or change AC filters monthly

Dirty air filters are the No. 1 cause of air conditioning breakdowns and they cost about 7 percent more in energy costs (or about $45 a year) in hot climates. Change central AC furnace filters monthly during the summer. Most window units have a removable filter behind the air inlet grille that you can take out and rinse monthly.


Tip 5

Block out sun with window shades

Roughly 30 percent of unwanted heat comes through your windows. Putting shades, insulating curtains or tinted window film on south- and west-facing windows can save you up to 7 percent, or $45, annually on cooling costs. The combination of shades and trees (see Tip 3) can lower indoor temps by 20 degrees on a hot day. Insulating curtains will save even more on both heating and cooling costs.

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