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Save energy while staying cool: tips for making the most of your air conditioner - PennLive.com
The last place you want to be throwing your hard-earned dollars this summer is at the air conditioner.

To save money while beating the heat, we talked to Thomas Taylor, a sales clerk at Central Hardware Lawn and Garden in East Pennsboro Twp., as well as Camp Hill's R.F. Fager Co. HVAC sales manager Steve Dittmer and Sam Rashkin, the chief architect for buildings technology for the U.S. Department of Energy, for the best ways to keep your home cool.


Invest in a quality air conditioner. Taylor said that many times, homeowners purchase the cheapest model but end up spending more money because they overload the machine, forcing it to constantly run and use more energy. Purchase a model slightly larger than the area you need cooled and you'll save money in the long run.

If you're looking for a full-blown installation, Dittmer said the best and most efficient model is to go for a mini-split, a newer form of central air conditioning that doesn't require any duct work in your home. Dittmer said the new technology, found at www.fujitsugeneral.com, can save thousands of dollars and be used for heating, too.

Inspect the unit. Rashkin said its important for homeowners to keep the coils and condenser for their air conditioner clean and free of debris and vegetation. That way, the hot air that is being pulled from the inside of the home can flow freely from the machine. Rashkin also noted that this will increase the air conditioner's lifespan.

Don't mess with the settings. Pick a comfortable temperature for your home and stick with it, Taylor said. Even if the temperature fluctuates, leave the air conditioner or thermostat at a consistent setting to save energy and money.

Keep the filters clean. As annoying as those lights can be telling you to clean the filter on your air conditioner, it often requires a simple rinse in the kitchen sink or vacuuming off any collected debris. This will allow air flow to move easily through your machine, Rashkin said.

Utilize your ceiling fans. Unlike table-top fans, these will disperse cold air throughout the room and keep the air conditioner from working as hard. But remember, fans cool spaces, not people, Rashkin said. Turn them off when you leave the room.

Draw the blinds. While natural daylight is great for turning off lamps and ceiling lights, it can cause the temperature of your house to increase. Use mini-blinds and insulated curtains to cut back on added heat and regulate the light, Taylor said.

Unplug your appliances. Microwaves, TVs and all those other pesky electronics we leave plugged in all day tend to create a lot of heat, as well as rack up the electric bill.

Insulate your home. This might sound like a strange piece of advice for the summer, Dittmer said, but it's important to have a good envelope on the outside of your home to keep the hot air out and the cool air in. For any major projects, Rashkin said it's important to bring in professional help, as your home is a complete system and changing one aspect can affect many others.

No AC? No problem!

If you can't afford air conditioning or it's broken for a few days, dont worry, you're not going to roast. Here are some tips on how to handle the heat:

Make sure your screens are secure. Not only will screens keep out unwanted visitors such as mosquitoes and other bugs, Taylor said, but they will allow an afternoon breeze to circulate throughout the house. Stock up on fans. They're relatively inexpensive and will help to get some circulation throughout the house on days where a breeze isn't as plentiful.


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