Save money on air conditioning this summer

With summer weather starting to arrive in earnest these days, many Americans are installing and firing up their air conditioners. And while the cool temperatures are certainly better news for consumers than suffering through another sweltering summer, the bills that typically come with that added comfort generally are not. As such, it might be wise for cash-conscious people to make sure they're doing all in their power to strike the right balance between cool and cost.

In many parts of the country, temperatures are already climbing into the 90s, meaning that many are turning on their AC units for the first time this year, according to a report from Richmond, Virginia, television station WTVR. But there may be many things in a home that can make these machines run inefficiently, costing consumers both cooler air and more money.

"Most homes have significant air leaks in outer walls, doors, windows and other openings," Rob Richardson, a spokesman for Dominion Virginia Power, told the station. "This allows hot air to seep in and cool air to escape - driving up your energy costs."

Where does air leak?
When it comes to how hot air creeps into a house, or cold air gets out, the most common place - perhaps not surprisingly - is through floors, walls, and ceilings, the report said. In all, as much as 31 percent of air gets in or out this way. Another 15 percent goes through ducts, 14 percent through fireplaces, and then 13 percent through plumbing gaps. An additional 11 percent moves through doors, and 10 percent through windows (or, more specifically, the areas around doors and windows). Finally, 4 percent more goes through fans and vents, while the final 2 percent can actually get through even electrical outlets.

What can consumers do?
While there may not be much people can do about these leaks in the short term, there are other money-saving steps they can take to cut their energy bills this summer, the report said. Experts generally recommend setting a home thermostat to 78 degrees, as that's generally a comfortable temperature year-round (and most people would be shocked to find how nice 78 degrees feels when it's 95 outside). In addition, installing a relatively low-cost programmable thermostat that cools only when people are home and need it can quickly pay for itself many times over.

Further, when using an air conditioner for the whole summer, it might also be wise to replace or clean their air filters once a month, the report said. And if people are also using fans, it's wise to note that they don't actually cool air, but just push it around so that it creates a cooling effect on anyone in the room; as such, turning them off when no one's home can likewise help save.

The more people do to cut costs in their everyday lives, the better off they're going to be financially. That, in turn, can help them pay down debts and build savings going forward.

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