Keep your cool

Published 9:46 pm Thursday, June 10, 2010

As temperatures rise, so do the power bills.

Air conditioners are working overtime to keep things cool, but there are a few things experts recommend that may keep both your home temperature and your power bills down.

“One of the primary money-saving things you can do is to set your thermostat back when you’re not at home for longer than eight hours,” said Dominion Power Community Relations Director Chuck Penn.


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When you’re gone for more than eight hours, for each degree you set the thermostat back, you can expect to see a 1-percent savings, according to Dominion Power’s website.

While Penn said the concept is debatable, turning your air conditioning off when you’re not at home for shorter periods of time may be doing more harm than good.

“If I’m gone for awhile, it would make sense to turn it off,” Penn said. “But when I come home, my air conditioner has to work overtime to cool down not just the air, but the sofas and chairs and other objects. If you keep your thermostat on a higher temperature, but don’t turn it off, it might save you some money in the long run, depending on how long you’re gone and how hot it is.”

Setting your thermostat to 78 degrees is the best way to conserve energy, according to Dominion.

If you’re not used to the warmer temperatures, closing you shades is a way to help a room stay cooler.

Sunny windows account for 40 percent of unwanted heat and can make the air conditioner work three to five times harder, according to Dominion.

Installing ceiling fans can also help.

By themselves, ceiling fans can make the temperature seem 10 degrees cooler and save about 25 percent on cooling costs.

If you have ceiling fans and aren’t convinced they’re doing their job, ensuring the fans are spinning counter-clockwise — to blow air down on you — is key.

Running large appliances during the day also can create additional heat and cause your air conditioner to work harder. Dishwashers and clothes washers are two major culprits that can raise a room’s temperature.

Along those same lines, unplugging any electronic devices when not in use can help reduce the stress on your air conditioner.

Electric chargers, televisions and audio and video equipment use electricity and produce heat even when not in use, and running an older refrigerator can use up to three times the energy of a modern one.