Air conditioners account for up to five percent of all electricity use, data from the US Energy Information Agency (EIA) said, putting a strain on electricity supplies and household budgets during hot weather. A few simple tips can help to keep a house cooler and reduce energy costs.
An aggressive solution is to upgrade the usual window-mounted or standard-size split air conditioning systems with the most efficient system currently available – according to the EIA and several manufacturers – a ductless mini-split system.
In a mini-split system, thin copper tubing is used to pump refrigerant from an outdoor compressor directly into an indoor air-handling unit, which is typically sized to cool one room (Fujitsu is one brand available in the Philippines). The main advantage of a mini-split system is that it uses approximately 30 percent less energy than other types of air conditioners of similar capacity, and is relatively easy to install. Because the in-room units are separate, each room’s temperature can be individually controlled, potentially saving even more on energy costs; for example, the unit can be turned off in rooms that are not being used.
There are, however, simple fixes that can be made that do not require a significant investment, but will still result in considerable savings. Using heat-producing appliances such as stoves, irons, and dryers at night or early in the morning when temperatures are cooler will reduce stress on the air conditioning system. Likewise, switching to LED lamps instead of incandescent bulbs can reduce electricity use by up to 90 percent, and also reduce the amount of heat being contributed to the indoor air. Switching to fluorescent lamps also reduces heat, but they do use more electricity than their LED alternatives.
The efficiency of the air conditioning can also be improved by sealing air leaks around windows, doors, and places where pipes or wires pass through walls to the outside.
Close all windows and coverings to help keep the house cool. Dark-colored curtains or shades help to block solar radiation, as do solar screens (available at most larger hardware stores or home centers), a black, mesh-like type of screen that can block up to 70 percent of solar energy, according to the EIA. The advantage of the screens is that it allows the windows to be opened at night or on cooler days to let fresh air into the house while keeping bugs out.