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Hot and Cold: Our feelings Towards Air Conditioners

Having spent plenty of time in Texas, I typically think of air conditioning as a lifeline – and for most of the year, it is! With July and August temperatures regularly frequenting triple digits, it’s essential to make sure you drink water, find shade, and pray that your AC unit never breaks.

Naturally, when I moved to Seattle, I was shocked to find that almost no one had an air conditioning unit! Triple-digit temperatures in Seattle are extremely rare, and for most of the year you don’t even need a ceiling fan to cool down (though that’s started to change more recently). As a Texan living in this temperate city, I can say without a doubt that I needed the heater for most of the year instead.

My point is, while saying “let’s just get rid of all of the air conditioning units!” is effective in some areas, it’s not feasible in others – and conversely, the same goes for heaters, though we’ll cover that in a separate post.

While everyone may have their own preference when it comes to setting the thermostat, I think it’s safe to say that somewhere around 70-80 degrees Fahrenheit is ideal (click here for a short article I came across in trying to determine why: https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/why-people-feel-hot/). How can we reasonably, carbon-neutrally, achieve this temperature, year-round, without spending a fortune?

First, let’s learn a little more about the modern AC unit. Energy.gov is typically a great source for information about energy in the US, and this site has a ton of good information about how AC units work, and ways to mitigate additional costs associated to cooling your home: https://www.energy.gov/articles/energy-saver-101-infographic-home-cooling.

We should also consider the modern AC unit efficiency, and how this differs from what we used in the past. AC unit efficiency is measured by something called a SEER rating, or a Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio – which “derived by calculating the annual cooling output during the cooling season divided by the total electric energy input”, per AAA Heating & Cooling (https://www.aaaheatingandcoolinginc.com/ac-seer-rating-actually-means/). According to their site, a good AC unit today should have a SEER rating of 13-14, however more efficient AC models do exist today, and even go as high as 20 SEER (https://flgreenteam.com/ac-101-air-conditioning-heat-pump-primer/). Of course, there are always more considerations – a key factor being waste/cost. If you cannot afford a brand-new AC unit with a SEER rating of 20 or above, or if your AC unit is working currently and does not need to be replaced, what can you do to mitigate your energy consumption now?

1. Replace your Air Filters every 90 days! 

There are plenty of options! One of the easiest ways to prolong the lifespan of your AC unit and reduce the amount of energy you use to cool your home is to replace your filters regularly. These filters can be purchased at the grocery store, but you have to know the size you need before you go. If you’re a new homeowner like me, this will be new for you – but I promise it’s not hard! I learned it, so too can you – check out a quick guide on replacing your air filters here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3tkJFtYUMfo.

2. Turn Off your AC when not home / not using it!

This question has been debated as long as I can remember: is it better to allow your AC unit to maintain a constant temperature all day, or turn it off and on and allow it to fluctuate? Depending upon your biggest concern, the answer to this question will change – if your concern is driven by cost savings, you should turn your system off completely when not home/not using it (https://www.debtroundup.com/should-i-turn-off-my-ac-while-away/).

However if your primary concern is bugs or mold growing long-term in your household (and you live in a humid environment), you may actually want to just turn the temperature in your house up when you leave, and back down to a more comfortable temperature when you return (here’s why: https://www.cooltoday.com/blog/should-you-turn-off-your-ac-when-youre-not-at-home#:~:text=But%20there’s%20a%20much%20better,home%20from%20mold%20and%20bugs).

In either case, please do NOT leave your AC unit running all day long in your home, whether or not you are there.

3. Close your Curtains

One seemingly simple thing people sometimes forget is just how simple it is to control heat with shade from the sun. Take out a compass (or look up your home on google earth), and see which of your windows face the south. Those windows are going to let in an enormous amount of sunlight (and therefore, heat) for most of the day but especially in the afternoon (assuming you’re in the northern hemisphere, of course). The easiest and simplest way to prevent this is to block out as much of that sunlight as possible – whether you’re using “black out” curtains or not, you will feel the difference, and may even start to see the difference on your utility bill.

4. Install a smart thermostat

Smart thermostats are becoming more popular, and while it’s not exactly a “free” solution, this equipment can absolutely help you save money. How do they work? The simple answer is that they can regulate the temperature of your home based on both your habits, and the outside ambient temperature, so that you don’t have to constantly think about it, leaving less room for error. For a more detailed explanation, feel free to check out this link: https://justenergy.com/blog/are-smart-thermostats-worth-it/, or go check out a few customer reviews to see what other people think of their smart thermostats.

Hopefully these tips will help you save money and cut down your energy costs, especially as we head towards another summer in Texas! If you’re curious about your personal energy consumption, but are not sure how to begin saving money on energy costs or decreasing your carbon footprint, please call us today – we’re happy to discuss it with you. If you have other tips and tricks on saving money while cooling your home, please add them here as well!

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Setting the Stage: Energy Consumption in the Home

As homeowners, we understand the appeal to have the best gadgets and gear to help with daily chores and life. For example, the dishwasher saves us hours of time spent over a sink with rubber gloves, the leaf-blower provides a similar benefit over using a manual rake. It wasn’t until recently that we really discovered that we needed to start asking ourselves what the carbon cost of these items might be, and how to prevent waste. There’s a lot to unpack here, but if you can get through it, you’ll be one step closer to making your home carbon neutral, and saving a ton of money in the process.

This week, we’ll take a holistic view of the home’s energy consumption, and see if we can uncover an opportunity or two in eliminating our own carbon footprint.

To start, we need to have a fundamental understanding of which appliances use the most energy in our homes. Here are a few articles to help guide you in the right direction:

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