Five ways to lower cooling costs at home

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By CANDACE TUCKER, UGA Extension Coweta County

As the summer heat rises, so will your electric bill. This comes as no surprise as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has found that the average household spends more than $2,200 a year on energy bills, with nearly half going towards heating and cooling costs. Luckily, there are changes you can make to lower your cooling and overall energy costs. 

Be sure to maintain your cooling equipment. Routine maintenance is necessary to ensure your cooling system operates efficiently. Check your air filter every month and change it out if it’s dirty or at least every three months. This will prevent dust and dirt from accumulating in your system which can cause it to use more energy and possible early system failure. For all other maintenance, contact a qualified technician to check over your cooling system in the spring. 

Install a programmable thermostat that fits your lifestyle. There are three different models of programmable thermostats to choose from — 7-day, 5+2, and 5-1-1. To determine the best one for you, think about your schedule and how often you are away from home. 7-day models offer flexibility if your schedule changes each day. 5+2 models stay on the same schedule every weekday and have a separate schedule for the weekends. 5-1-1 models stay on the same schedule Monday through Friday and have separate schedules on Saturdays and Sundays.

If you have a manual thermostat, you can adjust the temperatures daily before you leave the house and when you go to sleep at night. Typically, adjusting temperatures 5 – 8 degrees up in summer can help save energy if you are going to be away from home for several hours. The goal is the same no matter which thermostat you use – that is to keep your thermostat set at energy-saving temperatures for long periods, such as during the day when no one is home and at bedtime. 

Seal your cooling ducts. Ducts are found throughout your home as they are used to distribute conditioned air from your cooling system. High energy bills can result from air loss due to duct leaks, holes, or poorly connected ducts. If possible, seal any visible leaks by using a mastic sealant or metal (foil) tape and insulating ducts you have access to such as the attic, basement, or garage. Duct tape is not a sustainable sealing method and should be avoided. Also, take the time to inspect your registers and vents for any leaks and disconnected ductwork. For more extensive ductwork repair, hire a professional contractor. 

Insulate and seal the exterior of your home. This includes your home’s outer walls, ceiling, windows, and floor. There are several common types of insulation—fiberglass (in both batt and blown forms), cellulose, rigid foam board, and spray foam. Reflective insulation (or radiant barrier) is another insulating product that can help save energy in hot, sunny climates. When correctly installed with air sealing, each type of insulation should lower energy bills during the hottest times of the year. 

Before you install insulation, be sure to look for and seal air leaks because it performs best when air is not moving through or around it. Many air leaks and drafts are easy to find because you can feel them—like those around windows and doors. However, holes hidden in attics, basements, and crawlspaces are usually bigger problems. Sealing these leaks with caulk, spray foam, or weather stripping will have a great impact on reducing utility bills.

Invest in a new cooling system. If your HVAC system is more than 10 years old, then it should be evaluated by a professional or replaced. If you choose to replace your unit, look for ENERGY STAR certified equipment to be properly installed by a professional. Improper installation of your cooling equipment can reduce the system’s efficiency by 30 percent. 

For additional information on how to save energy, visit energy.gov and energystar.gov.

The University of Georgia College of Agricultural & Environmental Sciences is an Equal Opportunity, Affirmative Action, Veteran, Disability Institution. 

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