You know the drill: When the central air conditioner runs, raise your thermostat a few degrees higher than you normally would and save money. That certainly is an effective strategy, but you can use additional routine methods to make your air conditioning even more efficient and further lower your electric bills.
Avoid Using the Range and Oven
People may tend to avoid cooking with the stove on a hot day when they don't have air conditioning. Once the system is in place, however, they may figure it's fine to use the stove top and oven on a hot day since it's cool inside. But that adds heat to the home, especially if the appliance has to be on for any length of time.
On hot days, plan to cook outdoors if you can, or use a microwave. You also might decide to have meals that don't require any heat to prepare.
Don't Use the Clothes Dryer
A tumbler clothes dryer generates heat. It also draws in cool air from around the appliance and heats it, then blows that heated, damp air outside. A lot of your air conditioned air can go right into the dryer and outdoors. That costs money.
If you can, hang damp laundry outside instead of using a dryer. If you can't, try to only run the dryer at times when you're not using the central air conditioning. You might save some of your laundry to wash on a cooler day, if possible.
Uncover the Return Air Gills
Some people cover up floor return air grates with a rug or furniture, not understanding that the furnace and central air system need that air to function effectively. A grill set low on the wall also can have the same problem if a couch or chair blocks it. The heating and cooling technicians who originally designed the duct work installed those grills for maximum efficiency.
If your return air grills are covered, uncover them and let the air circulation path be complete.
Clean the Return Air Grills
You know that you should change the air filter regularly. A related activity involves cleaning the return air grills throughout the home to ensure they are free of dust, dirt and hair. It's also a good idea to remove the grills and clean the flat surface around the duct entry point. The grills stop a certain amount of debris from getting back to the air exchanger and filter, but they can only do so much.
Make Sure the Condenser Has Clear Air Flow
It's good to have some shade for the condenser -- the equipment located outside -- to keep it cooler. Then it doesn't need to work as hard when the sun shines on it. However, if you have bushes or trees with branches hanging over the condenser, trim those branches away to create better air flow.
Use Window Treatments in Sunny Rooms
Closing curtains, blinds, shades or drapes in rooms that face south or west will block some of the sun's heat in the afternoon. You may not want to do this if you're in the room and enjoy the natural light, but close window treatments in rooms you're not using and when you're not home.
Using these methods will help you lower your electric bills when you run your air conditioning. In addition, have a heating and cooling technician come to your home once a year and do cleaning and inspection not only for the furnace but for the central air condenser. A clean condenser means your air conditioner runs more efficiently, and this maintenance also extends the longevity of the system.