How to Use Less Air Conditioning and Stay Comfortable

We occasionally publish “classic” articles that we feel are still relevant to readers. This article is from the Jul/Aug 2009 issue of the Green News.

According to the U.S. Dept. of Energy, air conditioners use about 5% of all the electricity produced in the U.S., at a cost of more than $11 billion a year to homeowners. As a result, roughly 100 million tons of carbon dioxide are released into the air each year—an average of about two tons for each home with an air conditioner. Here are some simple ways to cut down your energy bills and decrease your carbon footprint.

• Open your windows at night to let in cool air. In the morning, shut the windows and blinds to keep cool air in.

• If you use air conditioning, set the thermostat to 78 degrees or higher. A ceiling fan will allow you to raise the thermostat setting about 4° F with no reduction in comfort. Turn off ceiling fans when you leave the room. Fans cool people, not rooms, by creating a breeze, or wind-chill effect.

• Keep your air-conditioner filter clean—that step can lower your energy consumption by 5% to 15%.

• Avoid placing lamps or TV sets near a room air-conditioning thermostat. The thermostat senses heat from these appliances, which can cause the air conditioner to run longer than necessary.

• Avoid using the oven—use the stove top, microwave, or a grill outside.

• Install efficient lighting–only about 5% to 10% of the electricity that incandescent lights consume is converted to light—the rest is turned into heat. Compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) turn almost 25% of the electricity they use into light.

• Wash only full loads of dishes and clothes. Air-dry dishes and clothing.

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by Jack Cheng