Hand holding a "Save The Earth" poster.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, “roughly 117 million metric tons of carbon dioxide are released into the air each year” due to the use of air conditioners—this is not to be confused with carbon monoxide, which air conditioners cannot produce. Currently, AC units account for 8% of energy consumption in households, growing from 5% in 2009. Energy consumption is predicted to increase as global temperatures continue to rise due to climate change caused by greenhouse gases.

With both Earth Day (April 22) and the summer season quickly approaching, it’s important to know how to limit your energy consumption and protect the environment while keeping yourself cool and saving money on your bill.

Saving the Environment Will Save You Money

As the planet continues to grow warmer due to climate change, the desire for cool air rises, leading to an increase in the purchase and use of air conditioners. In fact, the U.S. Department of Energy found that air conditioners cost U.S. homeowners an astounding $29-plus billion a year! In 2015, it was estimated by the U.S. Energy Information Administration that households spent an average of $156 a month to operate an air conditioner.

Small green plant surrounded by coins.

While AC units certainly have a cooling effect on its users, the same cannot be said for the environment. According to the Climate Institute, the compound Hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) is the refrigerant used in air conditioners; HFCs are a “much more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide and are leaked anywhere from manufacturing air conditioning equipment, to installation, to the disposal of old units.” For those unfamiliar with the term, a greenhouse gas is a gas that absorbs and traps heat in the atmosphere, which then creates a rise in global temperatures over time.

If you are someone who does not want to get rid of their air conditioning unit, there are five key ways in which you can reduce your carbon footprint and save money on electric bills:

1. Schedule Regular Maintenance

Many people are running air conditioners that are in desperate need of maintenance. If the air filters are dirty or clogged, the air quality will be significantly reduced. Your air conditioner may also have to work harder to cycle air through the system.

The U.S. Department of Energy states that “replacing a dirty, clogged filter with a clean one can lower your air conditioner’s energy consumption by 5% to 15%.” Typically, an air conditioner should be inspected and maintained by a professional at least once a year. Routine maintenance—changing the filter, checking for leaks, cleaning the vents—should be performed monthly. Here’s what you need to know about the average cost of air conditioning repairs.

2. Reuse Water

Young boy watering plants in a garden.

Condensation from air conditioning units can actually be recycled for purposes other than consumption (to reiterate, DO NOT consume this water!). According to Sciencing, the amount of condensation from an air conditioner can range anywhere from 5 to 20 gallons per day for a house. There is also a condensate pump and collection barrel from which water can be harvested from. Once the condensate from a window unit has been collected, the water can then be used for non-drinking purposes such as gardening, washing clothes, steam ironing, washing windows, and even flushing toilets.

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3. Use R-32 Refrigerant

R-32 refrigerant (difluoromethane) is a new type of refrigerant that efficiently conveys heat. According to Daikin, R-32 refrigerant reduces “electricity consumption up to approximately 10% compared to that of air conditioners using refrigerant R-22.”

What’s more, R-32 uses 78% less refrigerant and has one-third of the Global Warming Potential (GWP) compared to other refrigerants. On the Global Warming Potential scale, R-32 refrigerant ranks at 675, while R-22 comes in at 1810; the lower the number, the better. R-32 also has no Ozone Depletion Potential.

4. Invest in a Smart or Programmable Thermostat

Programmable thermostats save money by allowing you to better manage your heating and cooling system. If you’re rushing out the door and forget to adjust the thermostat, you can use your phone to connect to your thermostat and adjust the temperature appropriately.

The U.S. Department of Energy states that you can save “10% a year on heating and cooling by simply turning your thermostat back 7°-10°F for 8 hours a day from its normal setting.” If you and the other members of your household are away for the day, don’t let your cooling system run and eat up your wallet!

5. Use Fans

Woman using a fan to cool off.

While you can use fans in replacement of air conditioning, you can also use them to boost their efficiency. If the fan is clean and rotates accordingly, the cool air from the air conditioner will be better directed throughout the home as an AC unit cannot provide the same circulation as a fan.

Recall that cooler air is closer to the floor and heat rises, so try placing your fan in such a way that pushes air upward. Using multiple fans can also prevent the cool air from getting isolated to one room.

Keepin’ It Cool

In the summer heat, it’s important to keep your home comfortable, but your cooling methods do not have to come at the expense of the environment! Whether you need an air conditioner repaired, help with a new installation or more recommendations on how to keep your home at a pleasant temperature, Hoffner Heating and Air Conditioning is here to help. To learn more about the services we have to offer, contact us today.