Reducing Air Conditioning Use to Save Money


Since the move, I’m back in an apartment with air conditioning, which is great. Previously I was devising all kinds of ways to keep cool without air conditioning. Though I’m glad to have ac again, it’s addicting and costly. Ours is supposedly energy-efficient, but we haven’t gotten our first electricity bill yet to determine exactly how efficient.

Luckily, it’s been a pretty mild summer here Chicago. Before yesterday I didn’t turn the a/c on for 4 days. I had it on for a couple hours yesterday afternoon and evening, and now it’s off again and hopefully will stay off for the next day or two.

Sometimes I wish I could leave it off completely, but I have a pet chinchilla, and they are very temperature-sensitive, so I have to keep it below 74 degrees Fahrenheit at all times. It takes a little work to keep the apartment cool and reduce the amount of air conditioning I use, but it’s totally worthwhile because it saves money and energy, which is good for me and the environment.

Here’s what I do:

Buy a thermometer

Weather reports aren’t necessarily the most reliable stats on the block. I can search for the temperature for Chicago but am really getting the temperature at Midway Airport, which is about 10-15 miles away, and when you’re dealing with Lake Michigan, that can make the temperature a couple degrees off.

For some people this may not matter, but for me it’s essential (and convenient) to know what the actual outside temperature is where I live. I bought a great indoor/outdoor thermometer with a remote sensor. I put it in the room with my pets (I also have two rabbits) and hung the sensor on our patio.

With just a glance I can compare the indoor and outdoor temperatures and automatically know when it’s cool enough to shut off the air conditioning and open the windows.

Turn off the AC at Night

Even if it’s too warm during the day, most nights I can turn off the AC and open the windows to let mother nature cool down the apartment. We use fans to circulate air through the apartment, though some nights it gets cool enough to just have open windows. If we really need to suck air in or out, we do have an inexpensive Holmes Twin Window Fan from when we didn’t have air conditioning, that we use.

In the morning I leave the windows open until it starts warming up (I also check the forecast for the day just to see if it may be cool enough to go sans ac altogether). I shut all the windows (and sometimes the door to where the pets are, to keep the cool air in there) and don’t turn on the air conditioning until the inside temperature gets too close to 74. (This works right now because I am home during the day. If my schedule changes, then we, fortunately, have a programmable thermostat I can set, but I don’t think it’s quite as efficient as I am). I always go off of the temperature in the animal room. If they’re at 72 and the living room is 76, then I just don’t bother with the ac.

Run the Heat Making Stuff at Night

When my air conditioning is off and the windows are open that’s the time that I turn on the lights, run the dishwasher, run the washer/dryer, and use the oven. During the day I try not to do too much cooking (sandwiches, salads, and fruit make great, healthy lunches) but open a window to counteract any heat that may come from the oven. Believe me, this does make a difference, even if it’s a subtle one.

Close the West Facing Blinds in the Evening

We’ve got a lot of windows in our new place, and it’s wonderful because there’s so much natural light that we don’t need to turn on any of our lights until about 8PM. That alone is saving us on electricity costs. The majority of our windows are north-facing, but our living room has huge bay windows facing due West and once the sun starts to set, our living room becomes an oven.

Luckily there are some trees and other buildings near us that block out some of those sun rays, but usually, there’s about a half an hour or so when we just close all the west-facing blinds until the rays dissipate. It helps keep our living room cooler and saves on air conditioning costs.

These are the basic ways I’m cutting our a/c costs. You can check out more ideas in this article about How to keep your apartment or house cool during summer without air conditioning.

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