Controlling cooling costs

Friday, July 24, 2009

We may cuss about their rates and the frequency of and slow reaction time to power outages, but, by and large, our utility companies are on the high road when advising consumers on how best to cope with the heat and the cold.

And, during the upcoming Dog Days of August, as the sun boils and the crops mature, coping with the high temperatures and humidity will be first and foremost in many people's minds.

There are several things a home owner can do to lower cooling costs in the summer heat, including planting a tree. One well-placed shade tree on the south or west sides of the home, can reduce cooling costs by as much as 25 percent.

Also, during late afternoon and early evening, turn off unnecessary lights and wait to use heat-producing appliances. It's also a good idea to shade south and west windows during the hottest part of the day.

Maintain your central air conditioner by cleaning the outside compressor with a garden hose (after shutting off electrical power at the fuse or breaker) and cleaning or changing filters on a regular basis. Keep plantings at least one foot away from the AC unit for adequate air flow.

Use ceiling box fans to help circulate air throughout the house, and make sure your attic is properly ventilated. Ceiling fans should run clockwise in summer, and counter-clockwise in winter.

Set the fan on your central air conditioner to "on" rather than "auto." This will circulate air continuously, keeping the temperature more even throughout the house and aiding in dehumidification.

If you use a window air conditioner, it's better to get one that's too small than one too large because a larger one will start up and turn off more often.

Don't judge the efficiency of your air conditioner by the sound of the fan going on and off. The blower will continue to circulate cooled air throughout your home up to 15 minutes after the compressor has stopped.

Raise the thermostat to about 78 degrees whenever you go to bed or leave the house.

If your home or finances can't accommodate central air, try a whole-house attic fan. This device pushes hot air out through attic vents, lowering the temperature throughout your home about five degrees in less than 10 minutes. Attic fans cost only about 25-cents per day to operate.

Tinted window film can help reduce heat gain in summer and will help keep carpets and furniture from fading.

Make sure there is proper insulation in the attic and walls for maximum R-value.

Remember, these tips are all geared at helping you control and lower your cooling costs when summer turns on the heat and gas and electrical rates sky-rocket.