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Monday AM July 14th, 2008

Keeping your air conditioning system wokring efficiently can help control your summer electric rates. Ed Myberry reports.



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image of Reliant energy logo There are several low-cost and no-cost ways consumers can improve their home’s energy efficiency, and Reliant Energy’s Bill Clayton is trying to get the word out.

“Turn on either a ceiling fan or a box fan, raise your temperature a couple degrees on your thermostat.  A fan costs about a penny and a half per hour to operate, so they’re much, much cheaper to operate than an air conditioning unit.”  Ed: “What are the recommending settings for a thermostat?”  “We don’t really have a recommended setting.  If you were to go to the Department of energy, they would say 78 degrees.  But we tell customers is that for every degree that you will lower your thermostat below 78 degrees, you will increase your cooling costs — especially in the summer — anywhere from about five to seven percent.”

Clayton says it’s not a good idea to turn your air conditioning off during the day.

“We do tell customers not to turn it off and here’s the reasons why: there’s two issues.  One is the humidity buildup.  The other one is if you turn it off you’ll have so much sunk heat in the house that your unit will just run continuously.  So, one of the tips that we provide customers is that if you’re going to leave your house for more than four hours, go ahead and raise your thermostat four degrees.” 

As for shutting off vents and doors to unused rooms…

“It’s not like a water hose, where you can just shut off part of it and you redirect the volume of water somewhere else.  It’s best never to shut off supply vents in empty rooms, and here’s the reason why: what air actually backflows into the system, and it disrupts the dynamic airflow of your entire system.  It actually causes less airflow.  So it’s best to keep the door open to those rooms to let just natural air flow go throughout the house.”

Clayton says newer air conditioning systems are more efficient than older units.

“What’s out there now is everything from a 14 SEER, which, SEER stands for Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio, so the higher the SEER rating, the more efficient the air conditioning unit is.  Fourteen is sort of the mid-point, but they go all the way up to about 18 and even 19.  If your air conditioning units are anywhere older than ten to 15 years old, put together a contingency plan.  Start getting some bids from contractors.  And energy — you know, usage with the newer air conditioning units — dramatically better than they were, say ten years ago or even six years ago.”

Reliant recommends homeowners have their air conditioning systems checked by a professional to ensure peak performance. 

Ed Mayberry, KUHF Houston Public Radio News.