The irony that the fluorocarbon-based refrigerants in central air conditioners are contributing to global warming is certainly not lost on us here at ChasingGreen. While these install-and-go cooling systems have become standard for many conventional homes over the years because they effectively lower indoor temperatures, they're nothing short of energy hogs and ozone layer damagers. You may not have a central air conditioning unit in your home, you may even already have an Energy Star-rated system that you're perfectly happy with, but with July and global warming on their way, the following tips and facts will help to ensure that you keep cool, save money, and reduce energy use when things get heated.
TIPS FOR KEEPING COOL IN THE SUMMER
- Try turning on the AC only when you really need it to stave off heat exhaustion or to sleep: it's one thing to be cool, another to be an energy pig.
- Don't have a programmable thermostat? Think about getting one, as it's a handy tool that can keep you cool while saving you about $100 every year in energy costs.
- This one takes a bit of time in order to reap the cooling benefits, but think about planting a cooling garden and trees to shield your house from the sun.
- Pull the blinds or curtains during the day; otherwise, if you have an AC unit, you're forcing it to work extra hard because the rays are free to enter your home through the window.
- Almost any blind or shade will help, but cellular or honeycomb blinds are better than most. Just stay far away from plastic blinds made of toxic PVC or vinyl, as they are bad for the environment and linked with lead poisoning.
- If you're in the process of building or renovating your own home, consider light-colored tiles or roofing materials. Black tiles turn your attic into a boiler room.
- Install a radiant barrier (a thin sheet of aluminum that's often lined with craft paper or cardboard) inside your roof to help reduce cooling bills.
- Invest in high-quality low-E (the E stands for emissivity) windows with an argon or argon-krypton gas fill. A typical double-paned window allows about 75 percent of the sun's heat into your home, but good-quality windows will seal out the sweltering heat of summer.
- Install energy-efficient compact fluorescent bulbs – regular incandescent bulbs give off more heat.
TIPS TO IMPROVE YOUR CURRENT AIR CONDITIONER'S (AC'S) EFFICIENCY
- Set your thermostat to 76 or 78 degrees F and program it so it turns on an hour before you get home.
- Clean your filter at least once a season to make sure it's working efficiently.
- Make sure windows are sealed properly to prevent hot air from entering your home. This is especially important for window air conditioners, as the adjustable accordion sides that come with some units won't provide enough of a seal.
- If your central AC unit isn't functioning well, or if the coils freeze, you may have a coolant fluid leak. Call your local service technician as soon as possible. Putting off repair could mean you're dripping harmful greenhouse gases that contribute to climate changes, as well as prolonging the inefficiency of your unit.
- Have your central AC unit inspected periodically by a professional to prevent coolant fluid leaks and to maintain overall efficiency and summer month reliability.
FACTS ON FAN COOLING:
- Fans use 90 percent less electricity than air conditioners, and Energy Star ceiling fans move air up to 50 percent more efficiently than standard models. Reversible window fans are also great, if you have more than one, because they can be adjusted to pull air from one window and push it out another.
- Whole-house fan systems suck air from outside your windows and pull it through your home up into a vented attic, using about one-tenth as much power as air conditioners. If your summers don't get too hot, you can use them in place of air-conditioning, or you can use one in conjunction with AC to cut back on energy costs. Visit AirVent.com and QuietCoolFan.com for more information.
- Swamp coolers, or evaporative coolers, use much less energy than AC and are ideally suited for dry climates like Phoenix or Salt Lake City. They use fans to draw air over wet pads, and can reduce indoor temperature by as much as 20 degrees.