12 Ways to Reduce Your Air Conditioning Bills This Summer

It’s a scorcher out there. In 2021, many states broke long-standing temperature records—and boy, did residents feel the heat. Meteorologists agree that record-setting weather events are here to stay and cooling stations and air conditioning units could become essential in all states.

Sure, you want to beat the heat this summer. But you also probably know that cranking up the AC can take a toll on your wallet. If you’re wondering how to reduce your AC bill, read on to learn 12 energy-busting tips.

The Climate Change Conundrum

Before we go into short-term and long-term money-saving solutions, let’s touch on climate change. In June 2021, a “heat dome”—essentially a circular area of high pressure—formed over the northwestern United States and the western part of Canada in response to a change in the jet stream. Many states and provinces saw temperatures more than 25 degrees above the norm for an extended period of time. Simply put, there’d never been a heatwave as serious in the Pacific Northwest region.

Climate scientists almost unanimously agree that extreme heat-related weather events like the Western North America heat wave will become more common in the future. Most agree that carbon emissions caused by human activity are the biggest driving force behind climate change.

It seems likely, given current climate projections, that we’ll be more reliant than ever on air conditioning in the future. Residents in traditionally temperate states will probably need to invest in AC technology—and utility bills in the summer will most likely increase in line with temperature.

Short-Term Solutions

There are several things you can do right now to decrease your AC-related utility bills. Here are six actionable tips that’ll save you money.

1. Install a Smart Thermostat

Smart thermostats are relatively affordable and easy to install—and they save you money on your utility bills, so they pay for themselves relatively quickly. In a nutshell, smart thermostats save energy by adjusting the temperature in your home when you’re away or asleep. 

Some of the best programmable thermostats can be controlled via apps—and some learn your habits and make energy-saving adjustments automatically. According to research by the Department for Energy, programmable thermostats save consumers up to 10% per year on heating and AC bills.

2. Seal Your Windows

Leaky windows let cold air out in the summer and warm air out in the winter. Really leaky windows make your AC system work harder, driving up your utility bills. If your windows are otherwise sound—or if you can’t currently afford to replace them—seal them with caulk or weather stripping to improve energy efficiency.

3. Replace Your HVAC Air Filter

Air filters keep your AC system running smoothly because they stop dust from blocking your air vents. If your HVAC filter is filled with dirt and debris, air can’t circulate as easily. Air filters need replacing every six months or so—and more often if you have kids or pets. Luckily, they’re cheap and pretty easy to replace.

4. Avoid Cooking Indoors

Can’t stand the heat? Get out of the kitchen. If you’ve got a barbecue, use it as much as possible in the summer months to reduce the temperature inside your home. If you don’t have a barbecue, switch from stovetop cooking to a crockpot, or go with a microwave-friendly recipe instead.

5. Spend Time Elsewhere

The more time you spend somewhere else, the less you’ll need to cool your home. Spend time at the pool or mall after work, or hit the gym before you head home. If you’re self-employed, consider working in a coffee shop or at a shared workspace to reduce your at-home electricity consumption.

6. Stay Downstairs

Heat rises, so if you have to stay indoors, stay downstairs as much as possible. If you stick to lower ground in the daytime, you might be able to raise your thermostat temperature. Reduce your setting at bedtime—you’ll sleep better in a cooler room.

Long-Term Changes

Climate change means that in all likelihood, summer temperatures will continue to rise. Here are six ways to save money on your AC bills in the long term.

1. Get Your Air Conditioning System Serviced

One of the least expensive long-term money-saving tips is regular investment in your AC system. Get your HVAC unit serviced regularly—at least once a year—to ensure it performs optimally. Coils need cleaning, voltage connections need checking and refrigerant levels need topping off. 

2. Install Ceiling Fans

Ceiling fans help circulate air and make your home feel cooler. If you don’t already have ceiling fans, consider installing them throughout your property. Simply switching on a ceiling fan can reduce the burden on your AC system and lower your energy usage.

3. Upgrade Your Windows

Energy-efficient windows help you take charge of your utility bills. In the winter, they keep heat in—and in the summer, they keep heat out. Some high-quality windows come with low-emissivity, or low-E, glass, which reflects long infrared waves to keep your home cooler. Other energy-saving options include anti-reflective and tinted windows.

4. Plant Shade Trees

Blackout curtains and reflective blinds can help keep your home cooler. But in the long term, trees can reduce sunlight, shading your entire property and reducing your energy bills in the process. Good shade tree species include river birch, dawn redwood, cypress and weeping willow. If you decide to plant shade trees, keep them away from your foundations and from septic tank drainage fields.

5. Install Solar Panels

Solar panels generate electricity, so they help reduce your energy bills. Today’s solar arrays are much more efficient than older panels—and they’re also much more affordable. You can lease panels, or you can buy an array outright. Some power companies even let you sell extra electricity back to the grid.

6. Insulate Your Walls & Attics

Inefficient windows leak air—and so do badly insulated crawl spaces, walls and attics. Older homes in particular can be notoriously leaky. If your home is on the leakier side, improve your insulation to make your home more comfortable andsave money on your utility bills.

Utility Bills Are a Hot Topic

Climate change is inevitable, and we’re all likely to need AC more than ever in the future. You can use the 12 tips listed above to take charge of your energy bills and prepare for a warmer future. 

Want to make utility bills work for you? Sign up for ExtraCredit and use Build It to add your utility bill payments to your credit report. If you have a thin or nonexistent credit file, Build It reports your utility payments to TransUnion and Equifax—which could help beef up your credit file.

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