Is Your Air Conditioner on Your Side Against Debt?

I thought today the perfect day from this post from our HVAC friend, Jason Wall.  Not sure what’s going on in your neck of the woods, but we’ve had about a week straight of record heat and humidity here.   An improperly functioning air conditioning unit can be a money drain on days like this, so thanks for the tips, Jason!

In the battle that countless homeowners wage against personal debt, we make sacrifices daily to gain ground. But on sweltering summer days or the most frigid winter nights, your heating and air conditioning might feel more like an issue of life and death rather than a concern towards better energy efficiency. Unfortunately, the impact that indoor climate control has on our energy bills is significant, and energy inefficiency is not an option for frugal folk. So, how badly can an HVAC system affect your energy bill?

In over two decades of experience servicing businesses and residential clients through Griffith Heating and Air, I’ve found that the answer is usually “very much.” Depending on the state of your system, the damage to your budget can be tremendous. There are three important aspects to your system that you can control to improve your energy efficiency, and most of these can be improved without the help of professional service technicians.

How do you use your system?

Depending on your habits, you can save a great deal of money every month by adjusting how you use your air conditioner. Rather than relying on it for all of your climate control needs, try only turning it on when absolutely necessary by adjusting your windows , shades, and doors. Permitting more sunlight in by opening shades can generate several degrees of warmth indoors naturally. Meanwhile, opening windows during early morning or late evening times can allow coolness from outside to permeate throughout your home.

It’s best to only use your system when necessary, but when you do, make sure you’re smart about conserving the conditioned air your home produces. Sealing every outside window and door tightly is essential if you don’t want to waste precious conditioned air. Consider having an energy audit conducted, or do it yourself, if you haven’t had one in a while and suspect large energy bills might be due to air leaks and poor insulation. If the house remains vacated throughout any considerable points of time in the day, never leave your system on. Your system actually runs more efficiently at full blast than when it has to constantly fluctuate to accommodate a steady temperature.

How much TLC do you give to HVAC?

There are a few incredibly simple maintenance procedures that anyone with access to a retail home supply store can accomplish. The easiest and most routine of these repairs is replacing and cleaning air filters. Over time, dust accumulates throughout your system. While mostly harmless in your ducts, excessive dust on your filters can cause your system to push harder to allow airflow. By changing these every one to three months (depending on the levels of dust in your environment and the needs of any individuals of your home), you’ll see immediate improvements in your energy costs. Replaceable filters are inexpensive and usually come in handy bulk packages. To clean the permanent variety, simply remove the filter, vacuum, rinse with warm water, and allow to air dry before returning it.

A slightly more ambitious way to clean your system to improve your home’s efficiency is to clean the coils in the indoor and outdoor units. Cleaning these coils can result in enormous improvements to your energy efficiency, though this maintenance procedure doesn’t have to be conducted as nearly as frequently as filters. A household cleaner for the specific purpose of cleaning these coils can be purchased in aerosol cans at just about any home supply store.

How old is your system?

With improved quality technology and services, older systems are becoming increasingly impractical in achieving optimal energy usage. And this is considering mint condition antiquated gear; nearly every aspect of an HVAC system degrades and eventually requires replacement. For example, the differences that an older air conditioner makes can account up to 40% of energy waste.

If either your heat pump or air conditioner exceeds ten years of use, it may be time to start considering new equipment. Fortunately for pragmatists, the cost-benefit approach to investing in new equipment strongly favors homeowners against debt, since improved efficiency and initiatives like the 25C tax credit allows a new system to practically pay for itself after a few years of use. It can also be worthwhile to check to see if your air conditioner is appropriately sized for your property – especially if there have been additions to your residence within the last decade.

I’ve always been a strong advocate that air conditioning is never a convenience that needs to be sacrificed on behalf of a budget. With these tips in mind, it can be easy to make indoor climate control on your side in your family’s battle against debt.

By Jason Wall, a guest writer with over 23 years of professional HVAC service with Griffith Heating and Air.

17 comments

  1. AverageJoe says:

    Great tips. We’ve been nursing our HVAC system for the past two years. Whenever our guy tells us the price tag to replace it I cross my fingers and hope that we can duct tape the thing for another few months….

    • Jason Wall says:

      Hi AverageJoe, thanks for reading my article. While replacing any part of your HVAC system can be a bitter pill, it’s important to consider these replacements from a cost-effective angle. New efficient HVAC systems can easily exceed their costs in savings to your energy bills after a few years of use rather than relying on a patchwork rig. Good luck!

  2. I’ve heard mixed things about closing vents in rooms that are unoccupied to save money…wondering Jason’s thoughts on that! Also, does turning the temperature up/down depending on the time of day (and season) help save money in even the slightest bit? Thanks!

    • Jason Wall says:

      Closing vents in certain rooms is actually a terrible practice in the long term, since it causes systems to push harder to reach those closed-off areas. And it’s absolutely worthwhile to adjust your AC throughout the day to accommodate for those cool early mornings and late evenings — many folk invest in programmable thermostats to make it a little easier to manage.

  3. Rita P says:

    Maintenance of your A/C is a must. Cleaning and maintaining those air vents and filters improves the efficiency of your A/C. If you are lucky to be surrounded by shady trees then you may not need to lower the temperature as it keeps your house naturally cool.

    • Jason Wall says:

      Having ample shading from trees and hedges is actually a great way to mitigate the heat of sunlight. It can make a difference of several degrees in doors. Great point, Rita!

  4. I remember living in Florida how expensive AC really was. Luckily for me, I live in a colder area and I don’t run it much anymore but, maintenance is definitely a big deal that could save you tons! Thanks for the great post, Jason, I’ll see ya around!

  5. We live in a 100 year old building so we don’t have central air (just window units). This year has been a bit of a nightmare because the owner in the basement unit is a real jerk and complained non-stop to the condo association president that our AC was leaking and causing “mold” and “bugs” in his apartment. Once we had someone come and reinstall the AC the dripping got better, but to appease the guy in the basement we hooked up a tube to redirect the water to the other side of the building (funny it doesn’t cause mold or bugs there-ugg).

  6. I run our system at night when it’s cheaper from 7-7 only if it hits 25 in the house. I have to have a tech come out every year to maintain the new unit for warranty purpose as we bought it just 2 years ago. We hardly use it to be honest but it has come in handy on more than one occasion.

  7. Lindsey @ Sense & Sensibility says:

    Taking care of maintenance can be the big difference between saving money and spending too much. We have pets so we clean and change the filters even more regularly. It will probably help with keeping repairs to a minimum. Thanks for the tips!

  8. Kelly @Stayingonbudget says:

    My air conditioner is state of the art and was put in with the rest of my system last year. It was not that much extra to go with a better system since everything had to be replaced–foreclosure and completely shot. My bills both in the summer and winter are some of the lowest in area even without updating the windows/insulation yet. Maintenance is key…like everything else!

  9. Alexa says:

    I just have a window unit so it doesn’t require any maintenance. It has been VERY hot in my area though and I really wish I did have central air.

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