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Cooling costs

Many ways to save money, keep air conditioners running efficiently

July 11, 2010
By RODNEY MINOR, The Leader-Herald

With the recent heat wave across the East Coast, Jason Cook has been busy.

Cook, a service specialist with Allen's Family Heating and Cooling of Gloversville, said Thursday afternoon that since Monday the business had handled 46 calls for service.

When the temperature getst as high as it did last week, he said, that's when air conditioners work their hardest. For older units, most notably, that can become an issue.

Article Photos

The Leader-Herald/Rodney Minor

Jason Cook, a service specialist with Allen’s Family Heating and Cooling in Gloversville, takes a look at an air conditioner Thursday at a house on Saratoga Boulevard in Gloversville.

"That's when they break," he said.

Justin Taback, a sales associate at the True Value in Gloversville, said Wednesday the business had sold out of air conditioners. In less than an hour, he said, three people had come in seeking air conditioners, but they had to wait until the store got more in Thursday.

"It's hard to prepare for something like this," he said.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Department of Energy website for their Energy Star program -www.energystar.gov - a typical household spends almost 20 percent of its utility bill on cooling.

However, there are a number of ways people can prepare their homes to cool off as efficiently as possible. By being efficient, people can save themselves and their wallet from overheating.

Conditioned air

For window air conditioners, their cooling capacity is measured in BTUs, and the amount required depends on the size of the room. While a unit that is too weak is no good, one that is too powerful may not work out well either. That's because the room will cool too quickly and the unit will be turned on and off more frequently. That wastes energy and interferes with the air conditioner's ability to regulate humidity. The room could be left feeling damp and uncomfortable.

Taback said the air conditioners the store sells explain on the packaging what size room the units work best with.

The recommended BTU capacities for various room sizes also can be found on the Energy Star website.

For central air conditioners, Cook said the unit the business recommends is based on the size of the area the customer is trying to cool.

To keep the air conditioner running efficiently, he said, it is recommended the unit have a regular service inspection done every year, where a variety of things - such as refrigerant levels -are checked.

When it comes to upgrading an air conditioner, Cook said, it's recommended people consider upgrading an air conditioner if it's 10 or more years old.

Cook said air conditioners see similar leaps forward in technology that other machines, such as cars, see in their industries.

"It seems like every six months, something comes out that is new and better," he said.

To keep any air conditioner running as efficiently as possible, he said, people also can get a programmable thermostat.

While it might be tempting to leave the air conditioner on while out of the home, the habit can run up energy bills. A programmable thermostat works for central air conditioners, and window units can be purchased with built-in timers.

According to the Energy Star website, a programmable thermostat can save a person $180 a year.

Sealing

Even if a system is energy efficient, cold air can leak out of a home that isn't properly sealed. Such leaks also mean higher heating bills in the winter.

To check for any leaks in the home and fix them, there's a do-it-yourself home sealing guide at Energystar.gov.

For window units, follow the installation instructions and clean or change the air filter about once a month so the unit doesn't have to work as hard.

With central air conditioning, people can check for cracks in exposed ducts. While the cracks could be taped over, there is a sealant called mastic that's designed for the job.

Small changes

Small changes can add up to considerable savings, too.

According to the Energy Star website, people should close the curtains and shades before leaving their home, to keep the sun's rays from overheating the interior of it. Also, people should move container trees and plants in front of sun-exposed windows to act as shade.

Another way to save money is to swap out incandescent bulbs with more energy-efficient lighting choices. Energy Star qualified lighting uses less energy and produces about 75 percent less heat than incandescent lighting, so cooling bills will be reduced, as well, the website said.

For more tips on saving money on cooling, visit the Energy?Star website at www.energystar.gov.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this story.

 
 

 

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