Help your A/C work smarter, not harderI am not an expert on air conditioning. Three of the four states I have lived in love their air conditioning, but here in Southern California, a lot of residents (myself included) don’t have A/C. As I prepare to move back to my air-conditioning-loving homeland of Tennessee, I think it’s important to brush up on air conditioning efficiency. What can we do to make our air conditioners work smarter, not harder?

How often are you supposed to change your air filters?

Energy Star recommends changing your air filters every month, especially during peak seasons (summer and winter). In lower-usage months, you can go up to three months with one filter, but changing it out will help your air conditioner work more efficiently.

When you’re not at home…

Use programmable settings to raise the temperature when you are away. If you work a regular 9-to-5, you are not even home when the daytime temperatures are hottest. Raising the temperature with programmed settings gives your air conditioner a break during the warmer hours while the A/C at work cools you down. Make sure your A/C ducts are well sealed and that your home is properly insulated. If air is leaking through gaps in your windows, your A/C is likely working much harder than it should. Check your windows and doors to make sure that air is sealed tightly in your home. You may have to replace some windows, but the difference is worth it in the long run. Use ceiling or floor fans to circulate the air in your home. Turn off lights that aren’t necessary, and you’ll stay cooler (and save a few bucks on your electric bill). Take a look at your more powerful appliances (the dishwasher, the washing machine, the dryer) and try not to run those until the evening, when the temperature is cooler. Your air conditioning will have to work much harder if you choose to run all these appliances at noon in July rather than at 8 p.m. The American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE) has some great tips to increase the efficiency of your A/C unit. Keep your windows shaded during the hotter months, and your home will stay cooler. You could plant a tree near a particularly bright window, or you could keep blinds closed during the summer. Search your home for energy hogs like inefficient appliances and high-wattage light bulbs; these could be making your home hotter. Unplug your electronics when you aren’t using them. Another remodeling and efficiency tip that the ACEEE offers is to consider Energy Star roof products (or at least a light-colored paint or siding). Energy Star claims that reflective roofing products can lower “peak cooling demand” by 10% to 15%. Most of these steps are ridiculously easy. Turn on your fans, run your dishwasher at night, seal your windows and cool down your home efficiently!