It is summer in Georgia, which means we are all looking for ways to stay cool. Outside of a dip in the pool, lounging in a hammock in the shade sipping iced tea, or a nice cool ice-cream cone on the porch, staying inside with the A/C running is your best bet. For the air conditioner to operate most effectively and efficiently, you need to be mindful of a few things. We will work from most important to easiest to do yourself.
CLEAN AND MAINTAIN YOUR HVAC EQUIPMENT
First, before the season is upon you, get a reputable company to come do inspections and perform any necessary maintenance or cleaning that is beyond the “do it yourselfer”. This would include things such as adding coolant, cleaning coils and replacing exterior unit filters. You can get referrals from family or friends. Google HVAC companies and read their reviews. I can assure you that discovering your unit is not working properly at 7pm on a Sunday is expensive and very inconvenient. Emergency service after hours is always more costly and may lead to you having to use a less reputable company.
Once this maintenance service has been performed, you can adopt a few simple rules to help keep your unit in tiptop shape. Check filters monthly, yes monthly, not every three months. This cost you nothing but a few minutes of your time and can ensure that your unit does not have to work extra hard to cool. When you get your monthly power bill, check the filter. Keep extra filters on hand so that you do not need to make a trip to the home improvement store. Not only will your unit operate 5-15% more efficiently, in the long run it could extend the life of your unit.
SHADE THY HOME
A full circus tent over your home would be great, but since that is costly and would be frowned upon by your homeowners association, here are some additional ideas. Inexpensive and easy fixes include: (1) Closing blinds and drapes during the heat of the day (2) Taking the time to add exterior awnings over windows and doors to prevent heat from reaching the house in the first place. Ideas that might require a bit more planning would include: (3) Planting shade trees in your yard, or planting vines on trellises in front of windows, which lower the temperature around the house as well as provide shade. Preventing the heat from getting in your home is more than half the battle.
CUSTOMIZE YOUR THERMOSTAT
Programmable thermostats are convenient, money saving and essential to a comfortable home at affordable prices. A programmable thermostat is an inexpensive investment with a large return. The first way to use a programmable thermostat to your advantage is to program it. Review your schedule with your family, then program your thermostat to raise the temperature when you are away from home and lower it to cool your home before you return. Programmable thermostats also have digital displays, which give you a more accurate picture of what the temperature is in the house and what your target cooling temperature is. Keep in mind that a unit that is the correct size and in good working order should be able to cool your home to any reasonable temperature you desire.
USE YOUR CEILING FANS OR INSTALL THEM
Again the purpose of this article is to find a balance between being comfortable and being economical. This means you sometimes have to take advantage of other ways to stay cool as opposed to setting your thermostat to 68 degree in the summer. Ceiling fans are great for this. A ceiling fan can cool the air temperature in the room 3-5 degree. Ceiling fans create a breeze, which makes your skin temperature feel lower by cooling the moisture on your skin. If you have a fan when you are in the room, turn it on. By the same token, turn it off when you leave the room. The fan’s motor can create a small amount of heat, and it is using energy. If you are not in the room to benefit from the fan, it does not need to be running. If you do not have a fan, consider investing in one. They are budget friendly and use less energy than your HVAC unit.
In closing, it is hot in the summer and your electric bill is going to climb. So, if all else fails, shut off the AC, get a tall glass filled with ice and sweet tea and find a shady spot to spend a few minutes and relax. Stillness and shade are highly underrated as a way to stay cool.