Friday, July 13, 2007

Keeping Your Cool This Summer... The Heat Is On!

Summer is upon us and many homeowners worry as the temperature continues to rise, so will their utility bills. No need to panic. There are several ways to control the comfort level of your indoor air while still keeping energy consumption down.

An Ounce of Prevention

One of the best ways to stay comfortable this summer and keep energy costs down is by properly maintaining your cooling system. A system that is not running properly may be working harder than it needs to be in order to maintain a comfortable temperature. “If properly maintained, your central air conditioner will keep you cool even during the peak summer heat waves,” said Rick Roetken, director of product marketing, Carrier. Roetken recommends these simple steps to ensure that your central air conditioner is kept in tip-top shape:

Regular Maintenance - Have your central air system inspected by a qualified service technician or contractor early on in the summer season. Remember to also clean the standard air filters once a month. When replacing filters, make sure you install a replacement that is the same size as the original. A dirty air filter can restrict airflow, causing the coil in your air conditioner to freeze up significantly increasing energy use. It's also important to make sure the outdoor unit or condenser of a central air conditioner is free of debris. Trim or remove shrubs or obstructions within one foot of the unit.

Proper Operation - Do not run a central air conditioner when the outdoor air temperature is below 70 F. Operating a residential air conditioner in cool temperatures may cause premature compressor failure. Instead, ventilate your home by opening windows. When you are running the central air, remember to keep the thermostat turned up. For most homes, 78 F is a comfortable temperature. Using a fan to circulate the cooler air will allow you to avoid turning down the thermostat. Use a programmable thermostat so you can automatically raise the temperature to 85 F while you are out for the day.

Beware of Wasted Energy
If your air conditioner is old, consider purchasing a high efficiency model now. Air conditioners are manufactured to meet or exceed minimum efficiency standards set by the U.S. Department of Energy. Beginning in January 2006, the new minimum will be 13 SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio). These units deliver about 23 percent energy savings compared to the current minimum 10 SEER models. “Purchasing a 13 SEER unit now will allow you to save on your utility bills sooner, rather than later,” said Roetken.

You can also eliminate wasted energy by choosing Energy Star appliances for your home. Older refrigerators tend to consume much more energy than newer models. If your refrigerator is due for replacement, look for an energy efficient model. You should avoid using appliances that use a lot of energy during the day when the outside temperature rises. By:

Running your dishwasher, clothes washer and dryer later at night or first thing in the morning, and washing only full loads of dishes and laundry, you can slash additional utility costs.

Also remember to turn off your computer and monitor when not in use and turn off lights in unoccupied rooms.

Use fluorescent light bulbs, which last 10 times longer than regular light bulbs, wherever possible.

Direct sunlight streaming through windows can substantially raise the temperature inside your home. Close your drapes and curtains during the day to keep sunlight and heat out. Planting trees and bushes is an effective way to shade your home as well. If you plan to replace your windows, consider double-pane windows with spectrally selective coatings.

If you are concerned about the cost of comfort this summer, don't sweat it. These tips will keep you cool throughout the season.

Article courtesy of ARA Content & Jay Coleman at Cornerstone Inspection Services in central Virginia:

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