For budget-conscious and environmentally conscious homeowners, the AC unit's energy use can be quite a nuisance. But you can actually make quite a difference in the amount of energy your unit uses—not by turning your thermostat up to an untenable temperature, but by keeping your unit in shape and using alternative cooling methods to optimize cooling. Here are four of the best steps you can take to reduce your unit's energy use.
1. Shade your house
Your AC system has to fight throughout the day against heat from the sun that enters your house through walls and the roof. So if you protect your house from the worst of the sun, you may be able to significantly reduce the amount of heat that your system has to eliminate in order to keep temperatures down. You can use shade trees and bushes, vines growing up trellises, and shade cloths or sails above your roof to provide shade.
2. Keep up with unit maintenance
Efficiency can be diminished if your unit isn't in optimal condition. For example, if the air filter becomes clogged, the unit has to work harder and expend more energy to pull in and cool the same amount of air. And if coolant levels are low, the unit can't function correctly and may overwork itself and freeze up. So keeping an eye on your unit's condition, performing regular maintenance, and having it serviced annually are important for keeping energy use to a minimum.
3. Use simple fans
Ceiling fans can circulate air in the room, causing it to feel cooler and allowing you to leave your thermostat a couple of degrees higher and still feel comfortable. Box fans can help bring cooler air through open windows at night, giving your AC unit a head start in the morning. And attic fans can expel air heated by the roof before it gets a chance to affect the temperature of your living areas. Using all of these fans in conjunction can make a big difference in your unit's workload.
4. Install a cool roof
Your roof captures more heat than walls because it receives more direct sun during the hotter hours of the day, so preventing the roof from absorbing all that heat is one of the biggest changes you can make to cool your home naturally. If you're planning to replace your roof soon, you might want to consider replacing it with a cooler roof. By installing a naturally reflective material (such as tile or metal) and applying a "cool roof" coating to help it reflect both light and heat, you can help your roof stay about 50-60 degrees cooler in the summer sun. Eliminating this much potential heat accumulation makes it much easier to keep your house cool; the tiny bits of heat that may still get through the roof can be easily counteracted with ventilation and fans. You may even find that you don't have to use the AC as often if you employ this tactic.
These four methods of improving AC energy use can be used separately or combined for maximum effect. For example, if you have a cool roof that's also shaded and have shaded walls as well as good ventilation and fans, you may find that you hardly ever need to use your AC except during the hottest weeks of summer.
For more information about your AC usage, talk with HVAC services in your area, such as Shakley Mechanical Inc.