Save Money by "Hypermiling" Your Air Conditioning
Summer is still here, and it's still hot. You want to keep cool, but you don't want to triple your electric bill doing it. Fear not, intrepid savers. There's a number of ways that you can get the most out of your energy dollar. Inspired by "hypermiling," the movement where drivers coast down hills and drive behind big trucks (for example) to get the most out of a gallon of gas, I've come up with a list of ways that you can hypermile your air conditioning. (See also: Wear Frozen Clothes and 9 Other Ways to Beat the Heat)
Switch Off Heat Emitters
It's not just the sun that you have to worry about. There are all kinds of heat emitting devices in your home that are robbing you of precious British thermal units of cool. Keep lights away from your AC, but also any electronics that get warm when they're in use.
Allow the Night Air In
You don't need to run your AC all day and half of the night. Close the curtains when the sun is shining directly through your window. Once it starts getting too hot, start running the AC. After the sun starts going down, shut off the AC and keep everything closed tight until it's not cool in your home anymore. Then open the windows and let the cool air in. This is particularly useful for places that have a big difference between daytime and nighttime temperatures. (See also: Turn Off Your Air Conditioning)
Regularly Service Your Air Conditioner
Like any other machine, your air conditioner is only going to operate properly if it's regularly serviced. If it doesn't seem to be firing on all cylinders, it's time to have someone come out and take a look at it. Something easy you can do to maintain it? Clean the filter regularly by soaking it in a two parts water, one part white vinegar solution. If your unit is more than ten years old, it's time to responsibly recycle it and get a new one — it's simply not efficient enough to warrant continued use.
Move Your Furniture
It's not just heat that's going to steal your cool. It's also just things sitting around the room. The more furniture you have near your unit, the more cool air it's soaking up, rather than going where you want it. If you have to shuffle furniture around for a few months, or even permanently, it's going to be well worth it when it comes to keeping cool. (See also: Landscaping for Energy Conservation)
Dial in the Sweet Spot
Just as 55 MPH is the sweet spot for speed on the highway, so is 78 degrees the sweet spot for running your AC. If you're looking to be comfortable but also to get the most bang for your buck, this is where you need to run things.
Avoid Your Stove
When summer comes, you're going to make your AC unit's life a nightmare if you use the stove. Instead, use the microwave. Consider cooking things at night after everything cools off and then reheating them in the morning. Barring that, invest in some microwavable meals and have those during the deepest depths of the dog days. For healthier eats, try grilling outside after the sun goes down. (See also: Sexy Summer Dinners: 5 Great Hot-Weather Meal Ideas)
Pressure Wash Your AC
If you're lucky enough to have central AC, you need to clean the unit occasionally with a pressure washer. Start from the top and work your way down to keep all of those vents and filters clean without calling in the professionals. You'll notice a marked decrease in your monthly electric bill and besides, it's good to maintain such things for the value of your home.
Towel Your Doors
If you and your family tend to spend all of your time in one room, you need to block off the other rooms as much as possible if you've got a window-mounted unit. This means going back to the old college standby of toweling your door. For those of you who've never done this, it means crudely weather stripping your door at the bottom by laying a towel across it. It's not exactly pretty, but it will keep the air in the cool room, cutting your bill and allowing you and your family greater comfort.
Keep the Air Moving
Just because you're running AC doesn't mean you shouldn't be running fans. A single oscillating fan or even an overhead fan will keep the air circulating in your home, preventing you from overheating.
Switch to Fluorescent Bulbs
Fluorescent bulbs don't just cost less to light up your home. They also create less heat, meaning that they suck less cool out of the air when you run your AC. If you haven't made the switch over, a summer heat wave is the right time to make it happen.
Hypermiling your air conditioning isn't rocket science. It's just a few simple things that anyone can do to keep cooler for cheaper. Get ready for the next summer heat wave before it hits, and you won't have to worry about moving furniture around in 110-degree weather.
What are your best AC hypermileage tricks?