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5 Ways to Save Money on Air Conditioning
The average homeowner spends about $375 on air conditioning. Here's how to slash your summer energy bills, and still stay cool.

With a brutal heat wave spreading across the U.S., many people are turning on their air conditioners. The typical U.S. home spends 17% of its annual energy bill on cooling - about $375.

Summer is the time when electricity demand spikes, stressing the grid and pumping copious air pollution into the atmosphere. Emissions from coal-fired power plants, particularly, cooks in the summer sun to create smog and ozone pollution. (See 5 facts and myths about ozone pollution.)

These tips will help you reduce the amount of energy you pay for to run your air conditioner. How? You'll use it less, and use electricity more efficiently.

5 Ways to Save Money and Energy on Air Conditioning

So you already have an air conditioner, or you're planning to buy one... Save money and energy with the previous eight tips (after all, they'll help you use your AC less) plus these five maintenance and buying tips:

1. Adjust the thermostat: If you have central air controlled by a thermostat, use a programmable thermostat to save energy by increasing the heat significantly during the day when the house is empty. You can give up a couple degrees at night, too - especially on the hottest days. You may be surprised to find that the contrast between outdoor and indoor temperatures matters as much as the absolute temperature inside your home. When home, aim to set the temperature at 78 degrees to balance comfort with energy and cost savings. Together with winter energy savings, a programmable thermostat used properly can save the average home up to $150.


2. Clean the air filter: Whether you have central air or a room air conditioner, a dirty filter will reduce its efficiency, making it use more energy and cost more money to do the same job. Check your HVAC system's air filter monthly and expect to change the filter every three months.


3. Get an annual checkup: If you have central air, consider an annual checkup - once should cover both the heating and the cooling season. A professional should be able to diagnose any inefficiencies before you've wasted money on monthly heating and cooling bills.

4. Think small: Cooling one room with a window air conditioning unit requires much less energy (and investment) than a central air system. Ask yourself how you'll use your new air conditioner, and choose the smallest option that works. The government's Energy Star site has a handy guide to help you choose the right air conditioner for your space.

5. Buy Energy Star: Whether you're buying a central air conditioner (which could qualify for a tax credit) or a room unit, efficiency matters. An Energy Star central air system will use about 14% less energy than minimum government standards, and a room air conditioner will save at least 10%. Use the Energy Star Website before making a purchase, because while the vast majority of the 1,000-plus Energy Star window air conditioners barely meet the standards by using just 10% less energy than a standard model, some are clearly a better value. Compared to the typical, these nine models use at least 25% less energy:

Turbo Air - TAS-09EH Turbo Air - TAS-12EH Turbo Air - TAS-18EH Unionaire - RAC20A6HR Friedrich - YS09L10 ($1,179 at amazon.com Unionaire - RAC24A6HR Friedrich - YS10M10 ($1,189 at amazon.com) Unionaire - RAC20A6CR Unionaire - RAC20A6ER

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