During the summer months, it’s easy to let your air conditioning budget get away from you. As your system works tirelessly to cool your home, the energy expenditure could drive up your Cincinnati electric bill. However, following this guide could help you to improve your home’s energy efficiency now and later.
Average Summertime Cooling Costs in Cincinnati
Did you know that the average American family spends $2,000 each year on energy? Air conditioning accounts for around about 16% of this total bill, or about $320 a year. However, if your air conditioner is old or damaged, it could consume even more energy, driving up your total energy costs.
Average Summertime Electricity Costs in Cincinnati
Here in Ohio, we feel pretty lucky to pay less than nearly half of the other states in the union, with our average monthly power bill being $110.42 per month. With an average electricity cost of 11.65 cents per kilowatt hour (kWh) of electricity consumed, it can be easy to get complacent about energy expenditure, but the fact remains that energy bills can add up fast. While the average Ohio homeowner uses 854 kWh per month, your family could burn through much more power if you aren’t watching your usage, especially with all of the lights, appliances, computers, and televisions in modern homes. By calculating your cooling costs and cutting where you can, you can put a significant dent in your monthly power bill.
Calculating Average Cooling Costs
Find out how much energy your air conditioner is using by looking up a few pieces of information. You will need to find your air conditioner’s serial number and estimate how many hours a day your system runs. Air conditioning systems typically use around one kWh for every ton of cooling capacity.
What Size Is Your Air Conditioner in Tons?
You can calculate how large your air conditioner is by taking a look at the serial number and doing a little math. While AC serial numbers can appear daunting, look for a 2 or 3-digit even number halfway through the code. Oftentimes, these numbers start with a zero and end with a letter. This even number represents the number of thousands worth of BTU’s a system can handle in an hour of runtime. To learn the tonnage, divide this number by 12,000.
How Can You Determine AC Operating Time?
If you are wondering how much your air conditioner is running during the day, keep track of how much time your air conditioner actively runs during a one-hour block during the hottest part of the day, and again after the sun goes down. Multiply both of those numbers by 12, add them together, and then divide that figure by 60 to estimate how much your air conditioner is running daily.
Here is an example:
- The air conditioner runs 35 minutes total for the hour measured in the middle of the day, and 9 minutes total during the hour recorded after dark.
- Multiply Both Numbers by 12 – 35 x 12 = 420; 9 x 12 = 108
- Add the Two Numbers – 420 + 108 = 528
- Divide by 60 – 528 / 60 = 8.8
- Your air conditioner is estimated to run 8.8 hours per day.
Does Your Air Conditioner Use a Lot of Electricity?
To figure out if your air conditioner consumes a lot of electricity, use the figures you just calculated to determine your local average costs. For instance, if you have a 24,000 BTU (2-ton) air conditioner, you can safely assume it uses 2 kWh of electricity every hour. If your air conditioner runs for 8.8 hours a day, you could plan on your system using 17.6 kWh per day, or 528 kWh per month.
8.8 hours x 2 kWh per hour = 17.6 kWh per day
17.6 kWh per day x 30 days = 528 kWh per month.
If you were to plan on the average cost of 11.65 cents per kWh, the air conditioning portion of your monthly energy bill could be as high as $61.51 per month.
Use these formulas to calculate your air conditioning cooling costs. Since air conditioners are one of the leading consumers of electricity during the month, being familiar with how much you are using your air conditioner could help you to track and curb your costs. You can do other things to lower the temperature inside your home to maximize energy efficiency.
Ideal Temperatures Settings for an Energy-Efficient Home
Air conditioners can get a significant workout when bridging large temperature gaps between the air inside your home and the outdoor world. One of the easiest ways to lower energy usage is by choosing temperature setpoints closer to the outdoor temperature. As a general rule of thumb, the U.S. Department of Energy states that setting your thermostat at 78 degrees during the summer will lower your cooling costs.
By setting your thermostat at this temperature, your air conditioner will only have to work hard enough to bridge a 7-degree gap on an 85-degree day, lowering energy costs significantly. On the other hand, if your thermostat was set to 70, your air conditioner would have to bridge nearly double that span or 15 degrees on an 85-degree day, doubling your air conditioner usage and dramatically increasing your costs.
Eco-Friendly Thermostat Tips
Picking an eco-friendly temperature for your home is helpful, but if you really want to lower your energy use, also try these other ways to conserve energy using your thermostat:
- Create a Summer Schedule: While it is true that 27.4 million American households have a programmable thermostat, only around one in eight of those households use the programming feature. Before summer is in full swing, take the time to evaluate your thermostat settings and adjust them for the summer months. Make sure that your air conditioner is programmed to cool when people are present, and not when your family is away.
- Set that Thermostat Back: One simple way to reduce your energy consumption is by creating long energy set-back periods when you use your air conditioner very little, or not at all. Research has shown that adjusting the thermostat 7-10 degrees warmer than your preference in the summertime for periods of 8 or more hours a day could save you as much as 10% on energy.
- Don’t Over-Correct: While it can be tempting to crank down the air conditioner when your home feels uncomfortable, this action won’t help to cool your home any faster. Instead, your air conditioner will take the same amount of time to cool down your space, but if you forget to adjust your system again when it does get down to temperature, you could waste a lot of extra energy. Instead, turn on your air conditioner and let it work. When your home temperature lowers to the predetermined setpoint, your system will turn off.
- Use the Vacation Hold Setting: Anytime you leave your home for long periods of time, use the vacation or hold mode. These settings are designed to give users the chance to adjust air conditioner settings to accommodate 24/7 away status, without changing your normal thermostat scheduling. During the summer, try to adjust your thermostat up several degrees when you will be away, but don’t turn it off altogether. Turning off your air conditioner completely could increase the heat and humidity in your home to unsafe levels for plants, furniture, and pets.
How to Handle Super Hot Days
When air conditioners are up against a sweltering day, they have a larger differential to manage. Air conditioners perform best when the outdoor temperature is below 95 degrees, so if you are expecting a heat wave, it’s a good idea to do what you can to help your system out. Here are a few ways to reduce your air conditioner’s heat load, so you can enjoy a cool, comfortable home and a manageable energy bill.
- Check weatherstripping around doors and windows for gaps, cracks, and missing rubber segments. If you spot an area that doesn’t seem protected, add more weatherstripping to protect the window or door from summertime drafts. This simple step can keep cool air from moving outside, and hot air and pests from coming indoors.
- Keep window treatments closed during the day. Ultraviolet light can heat the air, and since it can travel through your windows, you could have a great deal of unwanted heat gain by leaving your windows and curtains open during the day. Instead, keep blinds and curtains closed on the side of your house the sun is hitting at the time during the day. For instance, close the curtains and blinds on the east side of your house in the morning, the window treatments on the south side of your house during the day, and on the west side of your home in the afternoon. While many people close windows and blinds at night for privacy, opening windows and letting the evening breeze blow through can be a very effective passive cooling technique, as long as your air conditioner is off.
- Open all of the vents in your home, and make sure they stay open. Closing vents can increase pressure in some rooms more than others, putting a strain on your air conditioning system. In fact, closing vents can even damage your air conditioner and shorten its life expectancy. Keep vents open to ensure cooled air can access the rooms of your home.
- Try not to add heat to the rooms of your home during the day. Avoid any activity that uses a heat-generating appliance, such as a stove, an oven, an iron, or a clothing dryer. Instead, reserve those activities for later in the evening, when you can take advantage of passive cooling. To keep your home cool, cook outside, hang-dry clothing outdoors, and exercise in nature instead of at home.
If your air conditioner isn’t keeping up, feel cooler by trying these things:
- Consider incorporating box fans or ceiling fans in rooms that you use frequently. Ceiling fans should be set to spin counterclockwise during the summer since this creates a downdraft that pushes air against your skin. Since people sweat more when temperatures are higher, this downdraft also produces a cooling, evaporative effect, which can make you feel like the temperature in the room is as much as 4 degrees lower than it really is. Box fans can be nestled inside the windowsill of an open window to fill your home with fresh air.
- During the summer months, opt for breathable, loosely knit clothes, such as linens. When you get dressed, use fewer layers to prevent accidentally insulating your body and preventing evaporation.
Create Good Habits to Save Energy
While many homeowners only focus on conserving energy on hot days, it’s important to remember that your efforts on mild days can help dramatically, especially when your efforts add over time. Take care of these tasks and encourage your family members or roommates to use these best practices to keep your home cool and comfortable all season long.
- Get a tune-up! This summer, make sure your air conditioner is tuned up professionally. Tune-ups maximize efficiency and cooling power, while also preventing premature breakdowns.
- Don’t avoid repairs. Anytime your air conditioner isn’t working quite right, schedule professional repairs. Even small issues can burn through excess energy, so proactive repairs can help your system to run efficiently.
- Change filters regularly. Your HVAC filter needs to be clean to operate properly. When filters become clogged with dust and dirt, they force your air conditioner to use more energy to pull in, cool, and distribute air, which can drive up your energy costs. Replace filters whenever they appear dirty, which can be as frequently as every two weeks if you have multiple pets or a large family.
- Keep your thermostat tidy. Your thermostat’s job is to detect the ambient air temperature and react appropriately. Unfortunately, your system can’t do this essential work when it is dirty. Dust the interior and exterior of your thermostat to ensure it is reading the temperature properly.
- Keep outdoor AC units clean. Over time, outdoor air conditioning units can become littered with leaves, weeds, and other organic material. Clean your outdoor air conditioning units and trim back any landscaping that could impede on airflow. Spray down your outdoor units with clean water periodically to keep the fins clean and to protect airflow.
- Use exhaust fans and fume hoods. Inside your home, use exhaust fans and fume hoods to expel hot or humid air. Fume hoods in the kitchen and exhaust fans in bathrooms, laundry rooms, and basements can help to remove warm, stagnant air that could be sending your air conditioner into overdrive. Make sure to turn these fans off after your home has cooled down to avoid expelling air-conditioned air.
- Select light-colored window coverings. Use curtains and other window coverings that are light in color, or that have a white backing that faces the exterior of your home. These shades help to reflect incoming light to keep your home cooler.
- Turn off lights. Turn off lights in rooms when the area isn’t occupied. If you have a large family prone to leaving lights on, add timers to your switches to do the job for you. Make the switch to energy-efficient LED light bulbs to use less power and generate less indoor heat.
- Keep doors open. Open the doors throughout your home to allow air to circulate freely. Make sure entry and garage doors are closed.
- Use the hold feature. Take advantage of the hold feature on your thermostat at night and take advantage of evening cross breezes Passive cooling can help you to control your indoor temperatures overnight, without driving up the cost of your monthly power bill.
- Turn down water heater. Check your water heater and turn down the temperature to below 120 degrees. You can use less power to keep your stored water hot, while also protecting the people in your home from accidental scalding injuries.
Choose the Right New Air Conditioner
Technology has improved all kinds of things in modern society, and air conditioners are no different. Over the years, air conditioners have become much quieter and more efficient, which is why most states have mandates in place regarding air conditioner efficiency. Air conditioner efficiency is measured by a Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio, or SEER, with higher numbers being indicative of more efficient models. If you want a surefire way to save a great deal of money on cooling, updating your air conditioner is your best bet.
In Ohio, the minimum efficiency air conditioning manufacturers are allowed to make is 14, but you can purchase systems far more efficient than that. Here at Thomas & Galbraith Heating, Cooling & Plumbing, we offer air conditioners with SEER ratings up to 26, because we are a Carrier Factory Authorized Dealer. In addition to carrying all of the best new air conditioners and furnaces, we will take the time to sit down with you, talk with you about your HVAC needs, and find a solution that fits your home and budget. After you select the perfect air conditioner for your household, our NATE-certified HVAC specialists will take the time to install your new system according to the letter of the law, so you can keep your energy costs as low as possible.
Call Thomas & Galbraith Heating, Cooling & Plumbing for Summer Cooling Assistance
When your Cincinnati, Ohio home is ready for a new air conditioner or emergency maintenance, it’s a good idea to work with a team of professionals who are the best in their field. At Thomas & Galbraith Heating, Cooling & Plumbing, their team of NATE-certified HVAC contractors can help with comprehensive repairs ranging from simple troubleshooting to full system replacements. Whether you need to boost the efficiency of your existing system or you are interested in improving indoor air quality, we can help, so give us a call. Thomas & Galbraith is proud to be a Carrier Factory Authorized Dealer, and their team will work hard to ensure that you have a cool, comfortable home all summer long.