The soft splendor of spring will soon give way to the scorching swelter of summer, a time when some air-conditioning units across Georgia whir to life while others wheeze in labored agony. Home AC systems have a tough job, sitting dormant for months on end before being asked to crank continuously at full throttle during the Deep South’s hottest months.
This summer let’s try to cut your home AC system some slack in the form of premeditated assistance. There are several ways to provide your AC system some much-needed assistance as the mercury — and your cooling bill — inevitably rises.
What Should the AC Be Set at in the Summer?
The U.S. Department of Energy recommends setting your thermostat to 78 degrees to avoid incurring a high energy bill, but everyone’s comfort level is different. If you want to achieve cooler temperatures while maintaining the lowest electric bill possible, consider these seven tips for maintaining the best temperature for AC this summer:
- Flip the switch on your appliances.
Energy produces heat, and your home is full of appliances, fixtures and gadgets that require constant power to operate. While unplugging the refrigerator isn’t an option, shutting down unused electronics like televisions, computers, and radios can be. The same goes for light bulbs, which produce heat when on. To conserve energy — and save your AC system some effort — try to turn off the lights as often as possible.
Despite a decade-long push to swap incandescent light bulbs for their LED and CFL counterparts, most homeowners still use the former in lamps and fixtures — an inefficient decision because 90% of the energy produced by incandescent bulbs is heat and only 10% is light. Flipping the switch can keep a room cool and save some money on AC in the process.
To calculate the cost savings you’d reap by turning off the lights, perform some simple math: Every bulb has a watt rating (e.g., 100 watts). If the bulb is on for one hour, it will consume 0.1 kilowatt-hour. Multiply that by your electric rate — let’s say 10 cents per kilowatt-hour — to determine your savings (in this case, one cent per hour). Seems like a tiny number, but those incremental changes add up quickly, both in terms of money and heat generated.
- Redirect sunlight away from your interiors.
News flash: Heat comes from the sun. When all that warm, direct summer sunlight shines through your windows, the temperature naturally rises and your home AC system kicks into gear. The solution? Block or redirect those rays, which you can accomplish in a number of ways.
Curtains, shades, drapes, and shutters are the most obvious. Installing awnings or upgrading to multipane windows can also work wonders. Another great option is sunlight-controlling window films, which you apply to your windows like an adhesive sheet and which block heat but allow natural light to pour in. Lesser-known strategies include draping white or light-colored fabrics, such as a blanket or duvet, over furnishings so that they absorb less heat and reflect the light. Dark fabrics and materials, meanwhile, hold heat and increase the temperature.
- Reverse course with your ceiling fans.
Ceiling fans are more complicated than most people think. Fans can rotate in two directions: clockwise and counterclockwise, and each has a specific function to perform. In warmer weather months, ceiling fans should be set to spin counterclockwise, which pushes air down and creates a breeze. This simple gesture can make a room feel up to 8 degrees cooler without changing the actual temperature.
- Cross-ventilate to let cool air flow.
Creating a draft throughout the house is as easy as opening windows at both ends of your home. Rather than having warm air pour into one area of the building and stagnate, you’re able to create an open flow that acts as a natural coolant. If you live in a two-story home, open a lower-floor window on the coolest side of the home and an upper-floor window on the warmer side. The resulting vacuum effect will send a rush of breeze through the entire structure. In a similar vein, point box fans out to push hot air outside. Most homeowners don’t realize this and mistakenly position box fans to pull air inside, which just increases the temperature and makes your home AC system work harder.
- Cook outside to keep heat out.
Preparing family meals in the kitchen is one of the most heat-inducing activities you can do. Ovens, stovetops, and overhead lights increase the temperature significantly. Why not take your cooking outside instead? Fire up the backyard grill and keep the heat out of the house. It’s also a wonderful excuse for an impromptu gathering of neighbors.
- Change your laundry routine.
Like the kitchen, a home’s laundry room produces a lot of heat. Dryers are heat multipliers, so try to limit their use to cooler times of the day, such as early mornings or later at night, or minimize the necessity for them by utilizing a clothesline outside.
- Maintain HVAC systems.
Last but certainly not least, make sure your AC system is in proper working condition for the long, hot months ahead. Have you installed a fresh filter lately? This is the most important preventive action you can take, especially if you smoke indoors or own pets. Make sure the HVAC unit itself is clear of any growth or debris and inspect all the vents in your home to ensure all are open and none are clogged.
Ultimately, the best temperature for AC in the summer is the one that’s most comfortable for both your body and your pocketbook. With these tips, you can keep your AC system running smoothy and keep cool all throughout this Georgia summer.