Cost-Effective Ways to Cool Your Home

As the temperature rises, so does the cost of cooling your home. But a new federal law may help keep your home both cool and cost-effective.

In January, the U.S. Department of Energy raised the minimum efficiency standards for air conditioners and heat pumps from 10 to 13 SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio). Although homeowners aren’t required to replace systems that are less than 13 SEER, doing so could shave 23 percent off energy bills.

Think of SEER ratings like gas mileage: The higher the SEER or miles per gallon, the more energy “mileage” you get. So as SEER levels rise, you’re cooling and heating products use less energy, giving you more bang for your buck while providing real environmental benefits through decreased energy consumption.

“The new 13 SEER standard not only conserves energy but it also reduces associated carbon dioxide emissions,” says Rick Roetken, director of marketing at Indianapolis-based Bryant Heating & Cooling Systems.

Bryant recently introduced a new line of 13 SEER models that provide superb savings, efficiency, and comfort. The improved top-of-the-line Evolution System reaches levels of up to 20 SEER while allowing users to control heating, cooling, humidity, indoor air quality, schedules, and maintenance reminders from a single, easy-to-navigate source.

To keep your home cooling system at peak efficiency, Roetken recommends having it inspected at least once a year by a trained service technician. Here are some additional tips:

* Install more attic insulation. Upgrading from 3 inches to 12 inches can cut cooling costs by 10 percent.

* Plant a tree. One well-placed shade tree can reduce your cooling costs by 25 percent. Place leafy shade trees to the south and west and evergreens to the north.

* Use ceiling and box fans to help circulate air throughout the house.

* Set the fan on your central air conditioner to “on” rather than “auto.” This will circulate air continuously, keeping the temperature constant throughout the house and aiding in dehumidification.

* If you use a window air conditioning unit, make sure it’s the proper size. It’s better to get one that’s too small rather than too large. A larger unit will start up and turn off more frequently and won’t do as good a job dehumidifying the air.

* Invest in a programmable thermostat.

* If you don’t have central air conditioning, try a whole-house attic fan. This device pushes hot air out through the attic vents, lowering the temperature throughout your home by about 5 degrees in less than 10 minutes.