Meteorologists have released the forecast for the summer: extreme highs and devastating storms. During the hottest months, we turn to our air conditioning units to save the day, but as temperatures grow so do our electricity bills.
Here are some strategies and smart habits that will help you save energy and reduce your electricity bills. Some of the tips below are free and can be used on a daily basis to increase your savings; others are simple and inexpensive actions you can take to ensure maximum savings during the summer months.
- Consider using fans where possible because they only use 10% of the energy that a central air conditioning unit uses and they allow you to raise your air con thermostat by 3.7°C without reducing your comfort level. Using a ceiling fan can make a room feel 4.5 degrees cooler while the air in the room stays the same temperature. Do not forget to turn fans off when you leave the room.
- When the air conditioning unit is on, try to eliminate unnecessary heat sources in the room (such as lighting and other appliances). By the way, LED light bulbs stay cool to the touch, all while drawing a fraction of the power used by incandescent and fluorescent bulbs.
- Use shutters, blinds or curtains whenever possible to keep out the sun, thereby reducing the need for cooling. This alone can reduce the room temperature by 6-8°C!
- When the cooling unit is on, make sure windows are closed. If you need to open the windows to ventilate the room, temporarily switch the air conditioning off and fully open windows and doors. This is more effective and energy efficient than having windows and doors partially open permanently.
- Open all windows and doors at the start of each day for a set period of time (5-15 minutes). The morning air is much cooler and can contribute to cooling the room inside as well as reducing the number of times you will need to open the windows during the day to change the air.
- Adjust the thermostat to a minimum of 25-26°C. Cooling the room at low temperatures in the summer is not desirable. As a lot of energy is used to extract moisture from the air, the capacity of the cooling unit decreases considerably. For each °C lower set, 3 to 5% more energy is used.
- Avoid setting your thermostat at a colder setting than normal when you turn on your air conditioner. It will not cool the space any faster and could result in excessive cooling and unnecessary expense.
- For health reasons, the difference between outdoor and indoor temperatures should not be higher than 7°C.
- Switch off the air conditioning when you leave the room. This will increase the unit’s efficiency, extend the lifespan of the appliance and significantly reduce your electricity costs.
- Do not cool rooms that are not being used.
And don’t forget to schedule regular maintenance for your cooling equipment, change the air filters regularly and clean the indoor and outdoor units before the cooling season to improve air quality, optimize energy efficiency and prevent sudden breakdowns.
Mid to long-term measures
- Make sure the capacity of your air conditioner matches your needs. If you have a bigger unit than is necessary, you are probably throwing money away. The required capacity is influenced by the size of the room, the thermal insulation of the room, the number of people working in the room and the amount of heat sources (eg. photocopiers, computers, fridges and other electrical appliances).
- Make sure your thermostat is on the right wall – If you put it on a wall right next to a hot window or next to a photocopier, for instance, the thermostat senses heat from these appliances, which can cause the air conditioner to turn on more often than necessary.
- Upgrade your air conditioner – buy a new energy class A unit. You may also want to pay attention to the cooling or heating factor (marked with EER or COP), which is usually within the range of 2.5 to 4. The higher the factor, the more energy-efficient the appliance is. The most efficient appliances available today on the market are inverter air conditioners, which can achieve savings of 20 to 40% (depending on the manufacturer) compared to the classic units.
- Mount the outdoor unit on the northern side of the building if possible or where it is protected from direct sunlight. This will improve the efficiency of the system.
- Plan for window upgrades. Window replacement is usually a costly proposition, but it’s one that pays you back over time in energy efficiency and comfort. If your windows are single-pane or aged and drafty, the energy savings could be significant.