I don't know which is worse in the town where I live--three months of hundred-degree heat or my energy bill! Believe me, I take to heart most of the recommendations I find from other home improvement bloggers. And if your AC bills are catastrophic during the hottest months of the year, you might try what I have done by following the recommendations of the writers at The Daily Green.
For one, I swap out my air filter every other month, come rain or shine. It's a small investment, but I have allergies to pollen and runaway energy bills. It's the simplest, cheapest, effective part of my home AC maintenance.
The Daily Green also suggests that we surrender the thermostat to slightly higher temperatures than we think we need during the sweltering months. I raise the thermostat when I know I'll be away for more than an hour. Then, I take a cool shower when I get home to give the AC time to lower the house temperature.
Close the vents in rooms you rarely use in the summer and if you have a bedroom window AC unit, try just cooling that room at night and let the rest of the house do what it will with the windows open. A ceiling fan over the bed can also lower your body temperature so you can sleep.
And, The Daily Green says, if you can, buy yourself an ENERGYSTAR central air system, it can carve 14% off your energy use, or an ENERGYSTAR window unit that can spare you at least 10%.
More About ENERGYSTAR Air Conditioning
The federal government's ENERGYSTAR website says that you're spending 30% more on air conditioning bills if your unit is over a decade old. That's a lot when you consider the average American homeowner spends $1,000 annually on cooling.
The feds recommend shopping for AC equipment that provides efficient performance levels established by the Consortium for Energy Efficiency (CEE) and the Air-Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute (AHRI). The key rating is the Air-Conditioning and Refrigeration Institute (ARI) performance standard of 210/240.
By the way, tax credits are still available up to 30% of the purchase price (up to $1,500) if you buy a new air conditioner or system before December 31, 2010. The unit does not have to replace an existing unit in order for you to qualify for the credit. Speak with your HVAC contractor before choosing a model.