There are many behavioral changes you can make to improve the efficiency of your home’s central air conditioning system. Turning on a ceiling fan, which costs little to run, can make you feel up to 4° F cooler. Closing curtains and blinds during the hottest time of day is another easy way to lower the demands on your central AC. While these small steps can add up, you won’t see maximum savings unless the central air conditioning units themselves are running at peak efficiency. The following checklist from the experts at Consumer Reports will see you through the rest of the cooling season. 

Step 1: Conduct Seasonal Checks

As the growing season grinds on, shrubs, trees branches, and the like can start to encroach on your central AC’s outdoor unit. That can affect the efficiency of the condenser. Clear debris from around the unit and keep vegetation at least 2 feet away. It’s also important to clean indoor grills and filters on a monthly basis.   

Step 2: Turn Up the Temperature

Raising the thermostat a single degree could shave 3 to 5 percent from your cooling costs. If your home doesn’t have a programmable thermostat, consider making the upgrade. By automatically adjusting temperatures when you’re asleep or away from home, the device can pay for itself in a few short years.   

Step 3: Call in the Pros

Once a year, have a licensed professional perform a full inspection on your air conditioning units. This will involve cleaning and flushing the condenser coils, draining the pan and drainage system, vacuuming the blower compartments, and checking the refrigerant and mechanical parts.

It’s also worth asking them to check the ductwork, especially if your cooling bills have been higher than normal. Up to 30 to 40 percent of energy can escape through leaky or uninsulated ducts. And if your home also has forced-air heat that uses the same ductwork, sealing leaks and adding insulation could end up paying for itself in just a few years.                    

Ready for an Upgrade?

Today’s central AC equipment is much more efficient than it was just 10 years ago. Updating or even replacing a system that’s older than that is another way to curb cooling costs, especially if you choose an Energy Star qualified model. Be sure to check our central air reliability survey to find the least failure-prone central AC brands.