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July 10, 2009

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Doesn't exactly go with cooling, but it does have to do with keeping things cool.

Cleaning the dust off the coils on the back of the refridgerator will significantly improve its efficiency.

About once a month or so during the hot season, I take a water hose and try to rinse out the condenser coils on the outdoor AC unit. By cleaning out the dirt and debris that tends to accumulate between the fins, you open up the airflow which can help efficiency of the air conditioner.

Run your bathroom fan to clear out the heat and humidity after a shower *before* opening the door and letting it into the rest of the house. Maybe also check to make sure your bath fan is really venting outdoors instead of into the attick. Less heat and humidity in the house saves work for your AC.

We find turning on the AC down to 74oF just as we go to bed really helps the kids get to sleep. But then the thermostat's programmed to shut off the AC entirely around 1 am. Since no one's opening doors in the middle of the night it doesn't get too warm, and anyway everyone's asleep so who cares if it's cool or not? In the morning, we all just get ready and leave asap for work/daycare so the AC stays off. The thermostat starts cooling the house down again to 77oF at 6 pm when we get home.

Re your 10 suggestions...I agree on all except the CFLs and the ceiling fans.

I rushed out and blew the budget buying a bunch of CFLs from various places 2 years ago---huge mistake. Very expensive, many burned out within a week or so (instead of lasting 3 years like they're supposed to), they are very dim compared to the wattage of bulb they are supposed to replace, most give ugly flickering, weirdly-colored light, and they didn't fit at all into many of my ceiling light fixtures. I tried all kinds of different brands and couldn't find any that would consistently deliver acceptable function--unacceptable for a product that costs so much! Light color especially varies hugely from lot to lot of the same brand. I still have a few in the house (ie the ones that didn't burn out right away, the random ones that give better color of light), but I'm now back to using cheap incandescent bulbs. A too-expensive experiment--I certainly spent more on CFLs than I would ever expect to save on my electric bill. Maybe the technology will improve later?

Ceiling fans just blow hot air and dust from up by the ceiling down on you--who needs that? I've never understood how they're supposed to be so great. But then, I also dislike the way they look (that faux Caribbean style looks really out of place in the upper Midwest) and the constant wind they generate is just plain annoying.

Replacing your windows isn't necessarily a good investment -- you need to live in your house quite a while for it to pay off. Also, you should probably discuss your options with the window folks---the windows that are designed to meet the regulatory requirements to get the tax credit are significantly (3x) more expensive than the windows a step down (with marginal performance difference). Even with the tax credit, you will end up spending 2x more on windows to get the ones that allow the credit.

This post really applies to those in warm climates. Those in the north need to focus on heating efficiencies. I live in the south. The best thing we did was buy a high efficiency 16 SEER AC last year. We save at least $1000 annually due to this change. I wish I would have waited though, Lennox came out with a solar assisted system this year. We get 270 sunny days a year where I live so this would really pay off.

Regarding CFLs, I bought the cheap packs at Meijer. Some of them didn't work but I just returned those since they have a 9 year warranty. They have definitely saved me money. I was going to "transition" by letting my incandescants burn out, but then decided that it would just be a waste of electricity to burn 60 watts instead of 15, so I replaced them all. My house has relatively few lights anyway so not a bank breaker.

We replaced our two largest windows today, partially for the tax credit. They had broken seals and fogged up between the panes, so we expected that we would have to replace them eventually anyway and we might as well get the savings early on.

Texashaze --

Save $1,000 versus what -- your old system or a new 13 SEER system? I've heard the savings between 16 and 13 isn't that much per year, though maybe that's just for a northern climate.

FMF - I had an old 11 SEER. Where I live in Texas you use your AC for at least 6 months a year. 3 of the those months will be in the high 90's or 100's. BTW, we have a 70% efficient heater, when I upgraded the AC I asked the guy about going with a 90+% furnace he told me to not waste my money. If I lived in the north this may be a big savings but not here.

Texashaze --

Just what I thought -- we're the exact opposite -- going for the most efficient heater as possible but a 13 SEER AC will serve us fine.

MC

If your fan is blowing hot air on you, you need to toggle the little switch that changes the direction of the air flow. You want it sucking the hot air up in the summer and blowing the hot air down in the winter.

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