Depending on where you live in the United States, it may get very hot in your home during part of the year. In some places the heat may become unhealthy—even life-threatening. Energy used for cooling is expensive and is almost always a separate expense from monthly rent. So, you should have a plan to keep your home cool, while also conserving energy.
Almost all air conditioning in the United States is powered by electricity. If you have air conditioning in your home, you should try to use it efficiently to save energy and money. A dehumidifier will also cool by pulling moisture out of the air. However, dehumidifiers need to run for long periods of time to be effective, so they use a lot of energy. Electric fans use much less energy than air conditioners or dehumidifiers, so using floor, tabletop, or ceiling fans instead of air conditioning will save a lot of money on energy bills. Using fans along with air conditioners that are set at a higher temperature may also reduce the energy needed for an air conditioner to cool a room.
If you require an air conditioner to cool your home, note that there are three types of air conditioning systems commonly used in rentals in the United States:
- Air conditioners that fit in a room’s window
- Portable air conditioners with wheels that sit on the floor and can be moved from room to room
- Air conditioning that comes from a main unit in the building or home, also known as “central air”
Window Air Conditioners
The most common way a rental home is cooled is by window air conditioners. There may already be window air conditioners installed in rooms by the landlord, but usually the renter buys and installs their own air conditioner or air conditioners.
Portable Air Conditioners
Window air conditioners won’t fit in windows that are less than 22 inches wide. If the window in a room is less than 22 inches wide, a portable air conditioner will be your only option. Portable air conditioners are less energy efficient and more expensive than window air conditioners.
Tips When Buying an Air Conditioner
- If you buy an air conditioner, look for the Energy Star logo. Energy Star-rated air conditioners are tested and confirmed to be energy efficient.
- Choose an air conditioner model recommended for the size of the room you will cool. If you buy one that is too powerful for the recommended room size, it will use more energy than needed when switched on. If you buy an air conditioner that is not powerful enough for a room, it might not cool the room enough, which is also a waste of energy.
- Many air conditioner models have timers that can schedule a temperature at different times of day or night, which reduces energy use when you are not at home. Choose one that can be programmed.
Air Conditioning Energy Saving Tips
- The U.S. Department of Energy recommends setting the temperature on your air conditioning at 78 degrees Fahrenheit. If this is not comfortable, find a temperature a few degrees lower. Keep in mind that each degree Fahrenheit you set the temperature higher could save 1% to 3% in energy costs. Since electricity is very expensive, it can add up to considerable savings.
- On a hot day, don’t turn the air conditioning completely off when no one is at home, either set it at 78 degrees or a little higher. This is to save on the extra energy that will be needed to get your home back to a comfortable temperature.
- Use or install window shades or curtains on windows and keep them closed to block the sun.
- Some air conditioners have filters you can clean, and some have filters that you need to replace. Clean or replace the filter on your air conditioners as recommended or when visibly dirty. A dirty filter will cause the air conditioner to work harder and use more energy.
- Fill openings to the outside around your window air conditioner to keep the cool air inside. Seal other window frame cracks and openings to keep hot air outside.
- Keep doors closed to rooms when air conditioners are running.
- Close all windows where there is air conditioning.
- For window air conditioners and central air, be sure air vents are open or not blocked by furniture.
- Avoid using your oven or other heat-producing appliances on very hot days. Turn off any lights not in use.
- Using cotton sheets instead of synthetic ones when you sleep helps you keep cool.
- Some energy companies offer plans that charge less for electricity during “off peak” times when the demand is lower. This is sometimes called a time-of-use (TOU) plan. In the summer, a TOU plan would charge less for electricity at night when there is less strain on the energy delivery system for cooling. With some companies, a TOU plan may be already built into your plan and with others you will need to sign up. Find out if the company that provides electricity to your home offers a TOU or off peak rate plan. These plans can vary, but typically they are in effect from around 8 pm to 8 am in the summer. Using energy-intensive appliances like air conditioners or dehumidifiers during off peak hours on a TOU plan will save energy and money.
If you have difficulty paying your energy bill, there are government and charitable programs that may be able to assist you. Start by visiting this link:
Disclaimer: This article was created in partnership with Refugee Housing Solutions. Refugee Housing Solutions is a project of Church World Service under an agreement paid for by the U.S. Department of State.