How to keep air conditioning up, power bills down

Lorie Farkas with WG&L says by altering your use of AC units and weatherizing your home, you can save up to 40 percent on your utility bills

The summertime heat is hitting hard! Air conditioners are being turned on all over Southwest Georgia, but when you turn the air up, how do you keep your utility costs down?

"There's a lot of things between changing how we live and having a good weatherized envelope around your home, you can bring your bill down 20 to 40 percent. That's a lot of money savings per month," says Lorie Farkas with Water, Gas and Light.

You may like keeping your home at 65 degrees, but you won't like your resulting power bill so much.

Power companies say to keep your thermostat at 78 degrees. Each degree you turn your thermostat up will cost between three and five percent more, according to Farkas.

"Don't set your unit to 65 degrees or cooler. Don't set any lower than 70 at all. You're going to run it all day and all night and your power bill is going to be through the roof," says Clint Newsome with Albany Air Conditioning and Heating Co., Inc. "You're going to pay for how cool you want to be, that's kind of how it is."

Experts also say to not turn off your air conditioning completely or at a high setting when leaving your home for the day or for vacation.

"Set it to around 80 or 82 degrees, and then let it run there because when you get back home and you want it to get back down to 78 or 77, if it's at 87 or 88 degrees it's going to take all night to do it. So don't ever turn it off, always keep it running," says Newsome.

Newsome also says AC units are like cars and require regular maintenance, which not only keeps it in shape but keeps your bills low too.

"A technician will come out and do a full point inspection on your unit, clean your coil, change your filter, look at every moving part in the unit make sure it's running well," says Newsome.

Changing filters is at the top of the priority list for an AC unit check up: Dirty filters make it harder for air to circulate through your home.

"We recommend at least once a month, maybe every two months if they are not running their air conditioning that much. A clean filter really helps," says Newsome. He says to use the blue filters and not the thick, pleated filters.

"We've had people that said they've never cleaned their filters in years and of course if there's dirt and dust you're paying for the energy but you're not getting the benefit of the cool air," says Farkas.

And going green could save you some green.

"If you're buying a home or if you own a home, always plant deciduous trees on the east and west which are trees that lose their leaves in the winter, so in the summer you've got a big, leafy bower or some shade which is going to keep the sun from being inside your house," says Farkas.

Other money saving tips for your utility bills include:
-Make sure your home has proper insulation.
-Draw blinds because sun serves as a source of heat.
-Turn a fan on low in front of the unit's fan. Farkas says this will suck out the water and eliminate humidity.
-Turn ceiling fans on to a low setting.

Farkas also says WG&L offers a free service where they will inspect your home for ways you can be more energy efficient and save on your power bills. Contact WG&L at (229) 88-8330 for more information on this program.