Keeping Cool: 7 Household Tips to Reduce Strain on Your AC

SCE has these tips to increase your cooling system’s energy efficiency without touching your thermostat.
Sep 30, 2022 10:00 AM ET

Ron Gales, ENERGIZED by Edison Writer Third in a three-part series.

Part 1: Keeping Cool: 8 Tips for Air Conditioner Efficiency
Part 2: Keeping Cool: Saving Energy While Beating the Heat 

Air conditioning is a basic necessity for many. Cooling your home or office while wasting as little energy as possible is crucial to keeping summer electricity bills manageable. Fortunately, there are several actions air conditioner users can take to reduce the strain on cooling systems in addition to adjusting thermostats. Here are seven options:

1. Sealing air leaks in your home can save up to 20% a year on cooling and heating costs, according to the U.S. Department of Energy- Opens in new window. Use weatherstripping- Opens in new window to seal air leaks around movable objects such as doors or operable windows. Caulk is recommended to fill cracks and gaps around stationary items like window frames, baseboards, electric outlets and switch plates. Caulk exterior cracks and crevices where two or more surfaces meet and at outdoor wall penetrations for dryer vents, plumbing, ducting or electrical wiring.

2. Low- or no-cost weatherization services are available for eligible low-income households, including renters (with building owner’s permission), through the U.S. Department of Energy’s Weatherization Assistance Program, administered in California by the Department of Community Services & Development (CSD). Learn more about the Weatherization Assistance Program- Opens in new window and find program applications here- Opens in new window.

3. Direct sunlight raises temperatures in interior spaces, primarily through windows facing east (in the morning), south (daytime) and west (afternoon); north-facing windows allow indirect sunlight. In addition to closing interior window blinds during daytime hours, consider setting up awnings, overhangs or yard umbrellas outside windows. This can reduce solar heat gain in the summer by up to 65% on south-facing windows and 77% on west-facing windows. 4. The heat that enters and escapes through windows is responsible for 25%–30% of a home’s cooling and heating energy costs. When shopping for new windows, check the product’s Energy Star label- Opens in new window and National Fenestration Rating Council (NFRC) labe- Opens in new windowl. Low-emissivity double-paned windows are widely recognized for increasing a home’s energy efficiency. Less expensive options include window films and exterior solar screens, which do-it-yourselfers can install. Learn more here- Opens in new window.

5. On hot days, heat is conducted into a home through the roof, walls and windows. Reduce this “heat gain” by painting exterior walls and roof tiles (see #6, below) a light color so they’ll absorb less heat; or by planting vegetation — shrubs and short trees — or installing vine-laden trellises to shield exterior walls and windows.

6. White or light-colored roof surfaces that reflect heat away are preferable to dark roofs, which absorb sunlight and heat up a home. Adequate ventilation and insulation can keep heat inside an attic from transferring through ceilings and into living spaces. Otherwise, attic temperatures can reach as high as 140–160 ⁰F, according to the SRPconnect blog- Opens in new window. Make sure to seal attic hatches for air leaks.

7. As much as possible, schedule activities that add heat to interior spaces — doing laundry, running the dishwasher, cooking — earlier in the day or later in the evening. This is especially important for customers on Time-of-Use rates- Opens in new window. Television screens, home entertainment systems, cooktops, washers and dryers and lights all generate heat, so stagger usage rather than running all of them at once during the hottest parts of the day. This will help reduce the strain on your air conditioner and the state’s energy supplies.