Reduce Cooling Costs This Summer

A man adjusts the settings on a ceiling fan.

The warmer months bring higher cooling costs. Especially for families with young children or folks of an advanced age, heat must be taken seriously. Still, there are measures you can take to reduce your cooling costs. Here are some ideas for how to reduce costs today save even more in the future.

Change Your AC Filters

If you don’t know when the last time your AC unit’s filter was changed, the warmer season is the time to take a look at it. Your filter plays an important role in the performance of your unit. Without sufficient airflow, your AC unit has to work harder to cool the room down, which means it draws more energy.

Keep a permanent marker by your filter, and when you replace it, add the date to the filter. Pick a spot that doesn't distract from the look of your room, but that you'll remember to check periodically.

Alternatively, keep a schedule for replacing your filters. Smartphone calendar apps are a good way to set up recurring maintenance appointments.

A man fixes an ac unit.

Check Your Ceiling Fan Direction

Do you know which direction your ceiling fan is spinning? Believe it or not, this can impact your energy bill. Because hot air rises and cold air drops, your ceiling fan spinning counter-clockwise pushes cool air back down and can make a room feel eight degrees cooler. Most modern ceiling fans have a switch on the motor housing to redirect the spin.

Hang Light Blocking Shades

Natural light is a gorgeous way to light a room. But when the sun’s rays begin to make things uncomfortably hot, you should consider using shades to block or filter the light. What you lose in illumination, you make back in reduced heat.

This reduces the price of cooling, with the added benefit of limiting any fossil fuel emissions necessary to run your system.

Tune Your HVAC System

Poorly maintained HVAC systems work far less efficiently. On average, a rundown HVAC will use 10 to 30 percent more energy than a carefully maintained system. Low refrigerant is a prime culprit of poor performance. Fortunately, your HVAC system will only need a tune-up once every two to three years.

Upgrade Your Windows

This is one of the more expensive ways to reduce your cooling costs, but it can result in a few hundred dollars of savings each year. Older windows tend to be manufactured with aluminum framing, allowing hot and cold air to pass easily. The vinyl and fiberglass in newer windows are better at maintaining interior temperatures. Window glazing options offer even stronger heat control.

If replacing your windows is not an immediate option, consider sealing them instead. Poorly sealed windows leak air and add to the load on your HVAC system. Remove old caulk with a putty knife and reapply a new layer. While you’re at it, check your windows’ weatherstripping. Worn or cracked weatherstripping won’t allow for a tight enough seal to keep cool air in your home.

a sample of a window with three layers of glass

Plant Some Trees

A long-term project that will cut future costs is planting some large vegetation on your property. Trees offer a cost-effective way of cooling down your house and the air around it with natural shade. For best results, pick fast-growing trees in the 40’ to 50’ range. The hybrid poplar makes an excellent choice—this aggressive grower can climb eight feet a year.

Planting a tree is a little more involved than putting a seed in the ground wherever you think it might look good. It will take upkeep and maintenance, but the eventual payoff can be incredibly satisfying. In addition to helping you control your cooling bill, your trees will offer you a source of peace and pride for many years.

Limit AC

Of course, the best way to cut costs is to not use the AC at all. Realistically that's not an option for most when temperatures begin to soar, but in the mornings and evenings, think twice before you run the system. If you can, schedule it to turn itself off automatically at cooler times of the day.