Heat Wave: Air Conditioner and Other Appliance Tips to Save Energy and Stay Cool

We’re in the thick of summer, and many parts of the U.S. and Canada are experiencing extreme heat. Heat warnings are in place in some areas, and people are turning to air conditioners to keep indoor temperatures comfortable.

Along with uncomfortable heat and humidity, hot weather can also lead to higher energy bills. You may not be able to completely offset the increase in your power bill that often comes with using the air conditioner during hot weather, but you can mitigate it by taking these energy-saving steps with your portable and room air conditioner and other appliances.

Room and portable air conditioner use tips

In extreme heat, a properly functioning air conditioner is essential for comfort and to help prevent heat-related health issues. Whether you use a room air conditioner or portable air conditioner, follow these tips to ensure your cooling appliances provide you with maximum relief from the heat:

Don’t turn your air conditioning temperature too low: Instead of pushing the AC unit to the highest level, set your air conditioner at a comfortable temperature. A setting that is too cold for the room size may add excessive moisture to the air. Turn the AC temperature down at night when the outside temperature drops. Move the temperature up if you will be out of the room for a while.

Position your unit properly: Keep your AC unit out of direct sunlight and pull shades and curtains to keep as much sunlight as possible out of the room.

Keep your unit clean: Clean or replace the unit according to the directions in the use and care manual. Clean coils and vents periodically using a plastic scrub brush. Use the brush attachment on your vacuum to get rid of any leftover dirt.

Keep the portable AC hose straight: Any kinks in a portable air conditioner’s hose can reduce the unit’s efficiency. Hoses should be kept as straight as possible.

Supplement central AC with portable or room units: Is there an area in your house where you need extra cooling? Consider adding a portable or room air conditioner to keep temperatures comfortable.

While it’s easy to forget about your air conditioner during cooler weather, follow all manufacturer-recommended use, maintenance and care instructions so your air conditioner is ready when you need it the most.

Other appliance hot-weather use tips

Refrigerator: Are you reaching for a cold drink, popsicle or ice cream to cool down? Limit how often and for how long you open the refrigerator and freezer doors. And if you’re storing foods that you recently cooked, allow them to cool fully before putting them in the refrigerator. Both of these steps will stop your refrigerator and freezer from having to work harder to maintain the proper temperatures. Are you running a separate, older refrigerator in your garage or basement? You may want to reconsider. A refrigerator that is 15 years old or older uses twice as much energy as a new ENERGY STAR model. And if it’s in the garage during hot weather, it has to work even harder to keep the contents cool.

Clothes washer: Most energy used during a wash cycle goes toward heating water. When appropriate, use cold water and run a full load, or set the washer’s water use to a level appropriate for the size of the clothing load.

Clothes dryer: Run your dryer at night or during off-peak hours, when electricity rates may be lower. Dry clothes at low-to-medium temperatures. Clean your filter after each load to improve the dryer’s efficiency and reduce drying time.

Dishwasher: Wash dishes at night or other off-peak hours, when temperatures drop and electricity rates may be lower. If your dishwasher has an air-dry option, use it. Only run the dishwasher when it is full.

Oven and range: If possible, limit cooking to the cooler evening hours to avoid raising the indoor temperature. Use pots and pans appropriately sized for your burners. A heat wave might be a good time to give induction cooking a try, as induction units heat only the pan and what’s in it, not the burner or air around it. That means much faster heating times.


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