5 tips to maximize coolness from your air conditioner

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We’re in the midst of a long hot summer and maintaining your air conditioner properly can be the difference between keeping cool or having those little beads of sweat trickle down your forehead even when the AC is on! 

If you have a window air conditioning unit, Consumer Reports has rounded up the following tips to help you get the best performance when the days are at their hottest.

Read more: 8 things your plumber won’t tell you that could save you big bucks

Avoid the sun on your AC

Your machine has to work harder if the powerful rays of the sun fall on it during peak temperature times. If at all possible, put the AC unit in a north-facing window that’s likely to receive the least sunlight. Shade trees casting their shadow on your unit will work well too to prevent the heat from overtaxing your machine. Awning is yet another alternative. 

Watch the placement of nearby TVs and computers

Items like TVs, computers and lamps will force your unit to work longer than it has to if they’re too close. That’s because your AC has a thermostat that will pick up exaggerated heat readings when it’s near those items.

Filter maintenance is key

When’s the last time you removed the front grille of your unit to access the filter behind it? A clogged filter can reduce airflow in a major way.

The solution? Pop that grille off and vacuum the filter for starters. Then wash the filter in warm soapy water. Air dry thoroughly before reinstalling it. And you’ll want to consider replacing the filter if it’s badly worn.

Check the window seals

Be sure the window seals around your unit are tight. Use weatherstripping if necessary to seal leaks so hot air isn’t coming in as your cold air goes out!

Use the temperature setting controls

Many newer window units can be controlled from your smartphone or otherwise have some kind of programmable function. Energy Star recommends you keep the temperature at 78° F when you’re home, 85° F when you’re out and 82° F when you’re sleeping.

That may sound kind of high, but the general rule is that you’ll save 3% on your energy bill for every degree of comfort you sacrifice!


Another great option to save big bucks on your home energy costs is to get a programmable thermostat like the Nest.

Want a couple of other ideas to lower your energy bill? Try these…

1. Start simple

For most of us, a good, basic starting point is changing your light bulbs to CFLs (compact fluorescent bulbs) or the even-more-energy-stingy LED (light-emitting diode) bulbs. They may cost more upfront, but they’ll save you a lot over time.

Another basic entry point to savings is your windows. Don’t change them thinking that you’ll get a payback; caulk them instead. Weather-stripping will also make a big difference.

2. Reduce your water consumption

Older toilets routinely used 3.5 gallons a flush. But more modern ones use somewhere in the neighborhood of just 1 gallon a flush. Getting a newer toilet represents a big savings on your water bill over time.

Consumer Reports gave its vaunted “Best Buy” checkmark to two toilets that both sell for about $100: the single-flush Aquasource AT1203-00 (available at Lowe’s) and the Glacier Bay Dual Flush N2316 (available at Home Depot).

In addition, try installing a low-flow showerhead that uses a blast of air to simulate a strong stream of water. You may qualify for a rebate if you outfit your home with water-efficient devices. Check with your municipality to see if they participate.

3. Insulate your attic

If you have an attic, be sure to insulate it. You can either pay a professional to do blown-in insulation or do it yourself. But be sure to wear proper gloves and a mask if you do the latter.

Joel Larsgaard, one of our web gurus, did it himself at his house. He got free rental of an insulation blower with the purchase of 20 bags of insulation ($11 a bag) at a local big-box home improvement store. Then he grabbed a friend to help him.

“It took us roughly an hour and 15 minutes to blow 23 bags of cellulose insulation into my attic, and it was actually kind of fun doing it,” Joel told me. “And bonus: I looked like the Snuggles Bear afterwards, with a thick coat of lint all over me!”

The real bonus is that Joel got a reimbursement from his local power company. So they covered half of his $274 total bill for the job! Visit DSIREUSA.org (Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency) to see similar incentives that may be available where you live.


Read more: What to do about window glass condensation

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