5 ways to beat the Birmingham heat and not break the bank?
Summer in Birmingham has two temperatures: hot and about to rain or hot and humid after the rain. The AC is always running and the power bill is always higher. According to a 2015 study Alabama in the sixth most energy expensive state in the country. This is in a large part from our A/C energy consumption in the summer. There are things that you can do to not only save money but to avoid a surprise A/C repair on a 100-degree Birmingham day.
There are things that you can do to not only save money (and energy) but to also avoid a surprise A/C repair on a 100-degree Birmingham day.
1. Turn the A/C down when you’re not home
This is probably the most obvious step you can take, but this is also the hardest to remember. Room temperature is 72-degrees but you can adjust your thermostat higher when you leave the house for the day. If you want to avoid forgetting this step, Alabama Power suggests investing in a programmable thermostat. This way you can set it to start the A/C before you get home or turn it down when you go to bed at night. These thermostats can even learn your habits and adjust the A/C based on your comings and goings. There are even some that can be controlled by an app on your phone for long distance adjustments.
2. Circulate the air
Kate Agliata from My Green Birmingham wrote on AL.com that you should run your A/C and ceiling fans together to disperse the cooled air more efficiently through your space. Fans don’t necessarily cool the air, they circulate it.
Alabama Power suggests saving energy (and money) by using ceiling fans involves setting the air conditioner’s thermostat to a higher temperature. The longer you use the ceiling fan with the A/C thermostat raised, the more you’ll save. The fan will cost you about a nickel every 12 hours, according to New York Times’ Michael Tortorello. The higher thermostat setting will save you about 10 percent (for each degree you raise it) on your cooling costs.
3. Maintain the a/c system
Even the most energy-efficient air conditioning system won’t lower your cooling costs if it’s not maintained routinely and properly. A dirty filter, for instance, can cause reduced air flow and the unit will need to work harder to cool the home. The more inefficient the system is, the more power it requires which leads to skyrocketing power bills. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, a clogged filter causes the a/c system to use from 5 to 15 percent more energy. Alabama Power suggests that your filter should be changed or cleaned once a month. A dirty filter is the number one cause of system freezing up and calls to an A/C technician.
There is other routine maintenance and cleaning you should perform to ensure that you are keeping your A/C healthy in the Birmingham summer.
- Ensure sufficient airflow around the unit’s condenser by cutting back shrubs and other foliage to at least 2 feet.
- A dirty condenser coil can increase the cost of cooling your home by 35 percent, to ensure that it remains clean. If you aren’t sure which part of the unit holds the condenser, check out this diagram at yourdallashandyman.com. Don Johnson from Freedom Heating & Cooling in the Birmingham metro area, gives a good description on how you can clean your coil yourself.
- Keep your floor dust free around your registers and vents and make sure there are no vents or air intake being blocked by furniture or clutter.
4. They’re called “window coverings” for a reason
The shade from the Birmingham trees is not enough to help decrease the amount of heat that the sun creates in your house. Drapes lined with white fabric can help reflect heat away from your space. The Department of Energy suggests purchasing reflective blinds, because “ . . . when completely closed and lowered on a sunny window, highly reflective blinds can reduce heat gain by around 45 percent.” Draperies can block the sun and heat, provided the fabric is closed weave and medium-colored. Buy them with plastic backing and you’ll reduce the amount of heat coming through a window by 33 percent, according to the DOE. They also suggest that you hang your drapes as close to the windows as possible and let them fall onto either the windowsill or the floor.
5. Let Mother Nature lend a helping hand
If you are not lucky enough to have a yard full of Birmingham trees, you can always plant strategically placed trees help conserve energy and reduce energy bills, according to the Arbor Day Foundation. In fact, you’ll save up to 35 percent on your air conditioning costs by planting large trees on the west, east and northwest sides of your home. If a couple of mature trees aren’t in your budget, consider providing only 17 percent shade over the house. According to Beau Brodbeck of Auburn University and Jean-Philippe with the University of Tennessee, you’ll save $10 a month on your power bill. Add another 33 percent shade and you’ll save $20 a month.
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