8th Sep 2014By Julie Curnow
Top 10 tips to reduce your air conditioning bills this summer
At 40% of a household’s energy use, heating and cooling appliances are the largest energy consumer in the average Australian home.
Whatever type of air conditioner you have – evaporative cooling, portable, split system or ducted reverse air conditioning – there are some simple ways you can keep your running and maintenance costs down this summer.
1. Cool it, not chill it.
On really hot days you can be tempted to crank the air conditioning thermostat way down, to cool your home quickly. It’s fine to maximise the fan speed with evaporative coolers but resist the urge to set low temperatures on air conditioners which refrigerate the air.
During summer, set your ducted reverse cycle, split system or portable air conditioner’s thermostat for a sensible but comfortable temperature somewhere between 24 and 27°C. For every 1°C lower you set your air conditioning thermostat, your running costs jump around 10%. Air conditioners work less efficiently at maximum capacity, so setting really low temperatures all the time will cost you more.
Use our handy Calculator to figure out how many days you’re likely to need your air conditioner over summer.
In the evenings, open your windows and make use of any breeze. Overnight and while you are at work, use the fan-only setting to help naturally cool your home for only a few cents an hour. If you don’t have security screens on your windows and doors to safely leave them open, install a security relief vent and a roof ventilation system so the hot air is forced into your roof and expelled through the roof vents.
2. Keep it Clean
It is very important to keep air conditioning filters clean. Filters clogged up with dirt and dust can cut efficiency by up to 15%, increase noise, increase operating costs and reduce the life of the air conditioner as it has to work harder to achieve the air flow.
For evaporative systems you need to turn the unit off then unscrew the panels to remove the filters. Hose down the filters at least annually.
For reverse cycle air conditioning systems you need to clean the filter at least every two months. Cleaning the filter is simple:
- Ducted system – turn the unit off, flip the return air grille down, remove the filter and give it a vacuum.
- Split system – turn the unit off, flip the fascia up, remove the filter and give it a vacuum.
For this and other maintenance, always read the manufacturer’s instructions. Some systems e.g. Daikin and brands with the iZone controller have reminders when the filter is dirty and requires cleaning.
To avoid costly maintenance and repairs, don’t let your air conditioner run all day and all night for days on end – it does need a break every so often. Most air conditioning brands have timers so you can program your air conditioner to automatically switch on about an hour before you get home. Manually switch the air conditioner off once the outside temperature has dropped to a comfortable level. Some controllers, e.g. iZone 310, let you operate your air conditioning wirelessly from your smartphone or tablet.
4. Use pre-cooling for scorching days
If there is a hot spell forecast for three or more consecutive days, then pre-cool your house the night before. This is especially effective in modern solid brick homes, and those with excellent ceiling and wall insulation. Pre-cooling allows your air conditioner to work at its optimum during the cooler evening times, saving power and wear and tear on the unit. It also allows the unit to keep on top of the heat load as it begins to warm up during the heat of the day.
5. Protection from the sun
Surprisingly, the location of your reverse cycle air conditioner’s outdoor unit can impact on the efficiency of your system. When installing a new air conditioning system have the outdoor unit located in a shady side of your home if you can, rather than exposed to full sun. The outdoor unit works up to 10% more efficiently in a shaded location.
If your outdoor unit is already in full sun, shade the outdoor unit. It is vital to have unrestricted airflow within 1 meter of the unit otherwise the unit will not work properly. Be aware that the heat output from the outdoor unit can damage and kill plants that are placed too close to the unit.
Your roof can contribute 25-35% of the heat build up in your home so it is important to reduce the heat radiating into your home from the roof space. Your air conditioner will not have to work as hard if you can reduce the heat build up in your roof cavity.
Installing a roof ventilation system is a simple and cost effective way to expel hot air from your roof. This allows your air conditioner to work more efficiently and thus cost less to run. There are a range of roof ventilation systems available – from basic wind operated models (whirly birds) to more complex solar powered units – which you can install yourself or get a tradesperson to install.
In the Australian climate, insulation is a valuable investment. Not only will it reduce your air conditioning costs in summer, but also keep your home cosier in winter and reduce heating costs too. Contact a local insulation specialist to come and inspect your roof cavity to determine the most effective insulation product for you home – different products will work better for specific building types and materials.
8. Reduce the heat coming into your home
It’s amazing the difference some fabric can make! During the daytime, close curtains, blinds or shutters of windows that are in direct sunlight, especially those facing directly east or west and bearing the brunt of morning or afternoon sun. Windows can contribute 25-35% of the summer heat gain to your home – so keep them covered up to minimise heat transfer into your home.
9. Opening and closing windows and doors
To get the best cooling benefits from your fans and evaporative coolers, make sure you leave some doors and windows open to force the hot air out.
The opposite applies for reverse cycle systems – they are designed to operate with the doors and windows closed, as the air is cycled through the indoor air conditioning unit to be cooled.
10. Upgrade your system
If you are lucky enough to already have ducted reverse cycle air conditioning, you’ll know how much energy it chews during really hot spells. A new product on the market this summer is the iSave system, which can be added to a few of the leading brands current model ducted air conditioning units.
iSave works by taking fresh air from outside, filtering it and then pumping it into your rooms. The hot air is then expelled outside. The iSave System is like adding an evaporative air conditioner to your ducted reverse cycle air conditioning system (but without the bulky unit on your roof and no water is required). The more you use iSave Air rather than your conventional ducted reverse cycle air conditioner the more money you save! You can use your iSave system at night time or while you are at work to stop heat build-up.
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