There will be days — hot, sticky, oppressive days — this summer when an air conditioner may become your favourite household appliance. But that feeling often disappears when the electricity bill arrives. Here’s how to cut your cooling bill — and still stay cool.
Programmed to save
If you’re going to be out for more than four hours, allow the temperature to rise to 28ºC and use a programmable thermostat to kick on the air conditioner an hour before you get home. You can also set the thermostat to turn off the air conditioner an hour before you leave. This can shave 10% off your bill.
Your biggest fan
When it comes to staying cool, “moving the air is just as important as cooling the air,” says Peter Love, a research fellow at Ryerson University’s Centre for Urban Energy. Fans are much better at moving air than central air conditioners. Ample use of fans will allow you to set the air conditioner at a higher temperature and still feel cool.
Get in the zone
Air conditioner efficiency has improved substantially, says Love. Replacing even a 10-year old system is likely to yield major savings. If you’re buying a new home, ask about having zoning technology installed. This allows your air conditioner to direct cool air to specific rooms at specific times. In older homes, manually opening and closing vents or dampers to stop airflow into particular rooms can achieve a similar effect.
Can’t see the savings for the trees
It’s possible to cut your cooling bill and beautify your home at the same time. Trees and vines planted on the south and west sides of your house will provide much-needed shade during the hottest parts of the day. When the leaves fall, the winter sun will warm your house and cut your heating bill as well. Reflective window coverings or awnings installed on south- and west-facing windows can provide comparable cost-savings—without having to wait for trees to grow.
Can you go without?
“Outside Ontario you can probably get away without central air conditioning,” says Fred Walter of Calgary’s Climate Change Central. Adding insulation and sealing leaks will help keep your home cool. If you’re still sweltering, Walter recommends portable or window air conditioners. While these units are not as energy-efficient as central systems, total energy consumption will be less if they’re used judiciously. Just remember to turn them off when you leave the room.