There are six-and-a-half million window air conditioners located around the city and running them all day can really run up your electric bill. In her Money Matters report, Tara Lynn Wagner takes a look at how to stretch your cooling dollar without breaking a sweat.
The mercury is rising and this summer it could take your electric bill to new heights.
"Because electric supply prices are higher than last year, we expect bills to be a little bit higher, say six to seven percent higher,” said Michael Clendenin of Con Edison.
But before you get all hot around the collar, there are ways you can keep cool without overheating your wallet. For a start, raise the settings on your AC, because the lower you go, the higher your bill.
"For every degree that you lower your air conditioner, you're raising your cooling costs by about six percent. That's on national average,” said Clendenin.
His suggestion: set your thermostat at a moderate 78 degrees.
You also want to make sure your unit runs efficiently. Remove and clean the filter or replace it with a new one. They don’t cost much but they could save you a bundle. The same goes for central air.
"Most of them have easily accessible filters, so you can look at them, if you see they start turning brown you should change the filters,” said Celia Kuperszmid Lehrman, deputy home and yard editor for Consumer Reporter.
Consumer Reports tests window units in a chamber. When buying a unit, Lehrman says get the right amount of BTUs – 20 per square foot – and always look for the energy star label. What she doesn’t recommend are portable units.
"They don't really cool the room down very well, they're pretty noisy, and they're also pretty expensive,” she said.
Of course there are also lots of simple things you can do that are hardly rocket science. Like don’t run the AC if you aren’t home and keep doors closed so you aren’t cooling rooms you aren’t in.
It also helps to keep the sun out by lowering your shades or curtains and just as importantly, you want to keep the cool air in.
"Make sure you caulked all the little cracks and wood around your windows, and anything else that might be leaking air,” said Clendenin.
Finally consider using a fan either on its own or to help circulate the cool air so your AC doesn’t have to work as hard.
"The movement of the air, makes you feel cooler. It will actually make you feel five to six degrees cooler,” said Lehrman.
Whether you have a window unit or central air, Con Edison has a program that provides customers with free programmable thermostats that can be accessed remotely, giving you more control over your usage and ultimately your costs. For more information or to find out if you qualify, visit www.coolnycprogram.com.