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Adapting to One Degree Less Air Conditioning

Remember your big air conditioning electric bills last summer?  For the average home, raising your thermostat by just 1 degree in the summer can save over $40/year. So even though it is only April, now is a good time to starting thinking about how you can begin to adapt your lifestyle to help reduce your energy bills for this spring and the coming summer.

If you increase the thermostat for your air conditioning by just one degree, you can save between 1-3% of your total annual energy bill. So example, if your annual electric bill is $2000 per year, then you can save $40 by making this small change. According to Energy Star, the optimal temperature setting for air conditioning is 78 degrees. If you move it to 79 degrees, you may not even notice the difference. And for the few times that it is uncomfortable for your family, you may find that you can adjust to these periods by just making small changes in your lifestyle.

In a typical home, your air conditioning system uses the most electricity of anything in your home:  between 16% and 20% of your total electric bill.  In warmer parts of the country, your air conditioning bill can even comprise up to two-thirds of the energy bill.

So if you are looking for ways to reduce your electricity use (and reduce your home's carbon footprint), then reducing your home's air conditioning needs is a good place to start.

To help you adapt to this one-degree change in temperature, here are some tips for you:

Close window blinds during the day: Closing your blinds during the hottest times of the day can save you up to $100 on your annual energy bill. You should especially try to close the blinds on your windows on the south and west sides of your home, as these will get the most direct impact from the sun.

Use a ceiling or room fan with your AC: If you use a ceiling or room fan in conjunction with your air conditioner, you can decrease your annual cooling costs by around $15. A ceiling fan uses only 75 watts/hr of energy, compared to 3,500 watts/hr for an average central air conditioning system, and 900 watts/hr for a window air conditioner unit. The moving air from a ceiling or room fan can make you feel 3 to 8 degrees cooler. If you have a ceiling fan and it will allow, then in the summer you should run it in the direction that draws air upwards in the room, rather than pushing warm air down (see types, costs, and reviews of: ceiling fans; room fans).

Wear clothes made of light-weight fabric: When you are at home on hot days, wear clothes made from light-weight fabric. This will help you adapt to the one-degree rise in temperature. And you might want to adjust your clothes fashions to include more shorts and tee shirts.

Use an AC timer for your Window AC unit: Contrary to popular belief, leaving your air conditioner on for the entire day, so that it doesn't have to work harder to cool a hot house when you get home, will actually increase your energy bill. But if your goal is to have your home cool for you when you get home, you can install a programmable thermostat for your central air conditioner, then you can program it to suit your convenience. For a window air conditioner that doesn't already have a self-timer, you can purchase a plug-in digital timer for less than $10. This small investment can pay for itself with what you will be saving on your cooling costs (see types, costs, and reviews of: programmable thermostats; plug-in digital timers).

So try this fairly simple and easy tip of increasing your thermostat by one degree, and use the tips above to adapt to this change. You can then enjoy reducing one of the biggest impacts on your home's electric bill.

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