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Q & A: On Air Conditioners

Written by Diane MacEachern .
All Consuming Questions: It's getting hot and I need a new air conditioner — what should I look for?
UPDATED: 03/31/11 | Originally Published: 08/07/09

Question: No one likes living in a hot house in the summer, but the answer isn't to move into a freezer — especially since freezer temps use a lot of expensive energy — so where do I begin?

Buying a new air conditioner gives you a chance to assess your cooling needs so you can save money and energy as you chill. Is it adequate to cool individual rooms or floors, or do you need a whole house system? How well insulated is the space you're cooling? A tighter room is cheaper to moderate than one that leaks cooled air out, and allows hot air in. Are south-facing windows shaded (either by curtains, or outdoor awnings and trees) to reduce the amount of hot sunlight entering the room?

Here are five ways to start your search for energy-efficient cooling:

  1. Use tutorials and online tools to help you calculate how much cooling capacity will make you comfortable.

  2. When you do decide to buy a new air conditioner, choose an Energy Star model, and you may save 10% or more on energy costs. product reviews showcase some of the best available options.

  3. Make sure to choose a model that includes an energy-saving programmable thermostat, so you can easily turn the unit off or down during the day when no one is home.

  4. People have a tendency to feel hotter in a more humid environment. If you live in a sticky summer climate, use a dehumidifier to reduce humidity, and a fan to create cooling breezes.

  5. Whether you use a dehumidifier or not, an energy-efficient fan can supplement your other air conditioning solutions.

Do you have any tips for keeping a cool and energy-efficient house during warm days? Share your ideas below!

Diane MacEachern is the author of Big Green Purse: Use Your Spending Power to Create a Cleaner, Greener World, and a popular blog, Big Green Purse.

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  • Dale C. 4 years ago
    I live in Tn and in July & August the heat can be brutal. I am able to leave my A/C unit off until 3:00 pm even then by leaving my house closed up in the morning with shades and curtains pulled and my ceiling fans on. While people are complaining of $200 plus elec bills, I can keep it at or below $100 during the hottest months. Staying hydrated is very important and that goes for your pets as well. For your outside animals, make sure their water is in the shade and change out twice daily. I also do this with mt bird baths.
  • Elaine F. 4 years ago
    we have ceiling fans to circulate the air.
  • Jeanette H. 4 years ago
    Way back in the 60's, before air conditioning was affordable to most people, my Grandma would hang a wet, not dripping, towel over the face of the fan to not only cool the air but to put the much needed moisture back into it :)
  • Preston-Rita O. 4 years ago
    plant trees around your house
  • Becky S. 4 years ago
    tinting windows now thats an idea
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