How to Use an Air Conditioner Economically and Save on Your Electric Bill

updated Sep 20, 2022
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There are plenty of ways you can get creative when it comes to staying cool and saving money.  But when the heat of summer truly hits, sometimes your best bet is cranking up the AC. Learning how to save money with your air conditioner can help you keep your cool physically and budget-wise. 

While it certainly costs a bit more than your usual ice fan hack, things like closing off vents and rearranging furniture are effective and still pretty easy on the wallet. To get you started on being a savvy renter during the summer, we’ve rounded up 13 simple tips for running your air conditioner in the most economical ways possible.

1. Don’t Confuse Your Thermostat

Sure, central air units are fairly smart, but they don’t know what’s causing heat—they just know it’s hot. According to 21 Celsius, an appliance repair and installation company based in Melbourne, Australia, items like lamps, TVs, or other electronics get warm, and having them near an air conditioner or thermostat can make the air conditioner think the room is warmer than it is.

2. Cover Up Your AC Unit

If your AC is outside roasting in the sun, it’s not going to run nearly as well as if it were in a shaded area. 21 Celsius also recommends using an awning or other form of cover to keep it from overheating.

3. Clean Your Filter

Grimy AC filters can contribute to a system working overtime. Air conditioning company Daikin says that replacing and cleaning your air conditioning filter is essential to a healthy, well-maintained system—which saves you money in the long run.

4. Refrain From Heat-Producing Activities

There are quite a few things that contribute to extra heat in your home, and according to Brandi Andrews, the founder and CEO at National Air Warehouse, cooking and baking are a main source.

“Another way to keep your home cool without forcing your air conditioner to work overtime is to limit the use of your oven. Try and eat food that requires no cooking, so there’s no heat being created by you,” she says. If you need to cook or do things like iron or run the dishwasher, try to avoid these tasks until evening rolls around, which is usually when the temperature will cool off outside.

5. Don’t Fidget With Your Thermostat 

Andrews says that sticking with one temperature and staying with it is a smart move when it comes to cooling down a room economically. “Just set your thermostat at a nice comfortable temperature and leave it alone,” she says. “It might take time, but it will [cool off] eventually, and you’ll be engulfed in the perfect temperature. In the meantime, turn on a fan and sit in front of it. A fan can actually help your air conditioner cool the room!”

6. Check Your Humidity

“Most people think that their HVAC unit alone will address all their heating and cooling needs in the house or apartment. However, you should also consider the humidity level within the living space,” says Ferguson HVAC Category Sales Specialist Jeff Spencer.

“Humidity is a critical component of comfort. Think about when you go to a doctor’s office or hospital, and it feels ice cold; this is because they are removing a lot of the humidity from the conditioned environment.” The solution? Spencer suggests purchasing a dehumidifier to help you cool down the space.

7. Don’t Go Overboard Closing Off Vents

While you may want to direct cold air to the hotter parts of your home, shutting too many vents can impact your system. “One of the myths [about] reducing your cooling bills is to block off a room that you don’t use and to close off the vents to this room,” says Spencer.

“However, your system was designed to meet the needs of your whole house. While it may be okay to close off one or two vents, if you close off too many, your system becomes less effective and efficient overall. Instead, close the blinds in the unused room, making sure that there is no furniture over the vents, and close the door.” 

8. Check Your Installation and Service Your Unit

You will see a difference in your electric bill if you’re working with a properly maintained unit versus a neglected one. “The easiest way to run an AC system inefficiently is by letting the cool air escape your house. Getting your insulation checked yearly can save your AC system much wear and tear, not to mention lower your bill. Even a small leak can have a big impact,” says Wesley Martin, owner of JH Martin Mechanical.

9. Get a Programmable Thermostat

“If you are gone for long periods of the day, this is a great investment. Maintaining a house at 80 degrees on a 90-degree day requires much less energy than maintaining it at 72. To be efficient, we only recommend letting your AC system ‘rest’ if you will be out of the house for more than 5 hours,” says Martin.

10. Inspect Your Ducts

If your ducts are dusty, clogged, or no longer properly insulated, your cool air won’t be nearly as cold as it can be. Do plenty of research if you’re going to tackle it yourself, but in most instances, calling up your local HVAC company will be your best and safest bet.

11. Rearrange Your Furniture

It may sound silly, but airflow is something you should think about when you go to set up that new couch or bed frame. Double-check to see if any of your furniture is sitting on top of your central air vents or obstructing the path that cool air uses to get into your rooms. This is a quick fix that makes an instantly noticeable difference.

12. Turn it Off When You Leave

While it’s nice to come home to a cooled-down apartment, it can be costly for your wallet if you run the AC when you’re gone. If you turn off the air conditioning when you leave, try keeping the windows closed and shades down to prevent your place from feeling like an oven.

13. Don’t Forget the Fan

Fans are useful tools for maximizing the reach of cool air from your AC. Strategically placing a few around your home can keep the breeze moving through and costs a lot less than blasting the air conditioning all day.