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The best AC formula for staying cool and saving money

Experts say a few adjustments can help keeping cooling costs down.
The Nest Learning Thermostat
Posted at 6:16 PM, Jun 19, 2024

After a brutal day in the heat, we all crave a little relief. But with temperatures climbing outside, so are utility bills.

As of May, consumers were paying 5.9% more for electricity compared to May of 2023, according to the Labor Department's Consumer Price Index.

Experts say a few adjustments can help you save.

"You can adjust your thermostat 1 to 5 degrees and that's going to save you 3%-5% on your cooling," said Brittany Waugaman, a communications specialist for the Ohio Public Utilities Commission.

Waugaman said now is the time to utilize programmable thermostats to adjust the temperature overnight and while you're away from your home.

"You can set a daily schedule to help increase that efficiency even more," she said.

Government-backed ENERGY STAR has a formula that can help save energy all summer long, not just during a heat wave.

Start by finding the temperature you and your family are comfortable with while at home. As an example, let's say that temperature is 70 degrees.

  • Overnight: Increase the temperature by 4 degrees (now 74 degrees).
  • While you're away: Increase the temperature by 7 degrees (now 77 degrees).

According to the U.S. Department of Energy's Energy Saver, "The smaller the difference between the indoor and outdoor temperatures, the lower your overall cooling bill will be."

Waugaman says you can save even more by holding off on chores and activities that produce more heat and moisture during the day.

"That would be things like doing laundry, running your dishwasher, taking a long hot shower in the middle of the day," she said. "We want to save those for the cooler times at the beginning of the day and during the evening."

If you rely on window air conditioners or fans, check for gaps that let air in, and make sure AC units fit properly in the window. "That way you can get a really good airflow without losing some of that energy," Waugaman said.

The same applies to gaps or other cracks around the home.

Lastly, Waugaman suggests closing blinds to prevent extra heat and light from getting in. The goal is keeping your home as cool as possible throughout the day, without forcing your AC unit to use more energy.

Related story: How to ‘supercool’ your home for chilly air and energy savings