MINNEAPOLIS — With all of these record-breaking hot temperatures, we checked in with air conditioning technicians and the folks at Xcel Energy on the best way to hold onto our cool air without running up a high electric bill.
As it turns out, there are many practical tips that will keep you from overworking your AC system during the heat wave, and save you money in the long run.
- Closing drapes and blinds during the heat of the day
- Opening interior doors to improve the circulation of cool air inside
- Using ceiling fans to help circulate cool air through the home
- Using a whole-house or attic fan to draw in cool nighttime air and push out hot air during the day
- Changing air conditioning filters
- Installing a programmable thermostat that raises the setting when the house is empty, and lowers it to a comfortable level when everyone comes home
John Marshall of Xcel Energy also recommended against using major household appliances during the hottest part of the day, both because of the heat they generate and the energy load.
"If you have appliances – dishwasher, washing machine, dryer -- only run them with full loads and run them at night when that heat has dissipated," Marshall told KARE.
He said those who don't have a smart thermostat yet should aim for the mid 70's on their traditional thermostats or higher if they can tolerate the heat. For a full list of tips and information on rebates available for adopting energy efficient technology, go to this page on Xcel Energy's website.
CURRENT FORECAST: WEATHER: Saturday sizzles
Marshall said that Xcel is ready for the heat wave.
"We’re prepared to keep energy flowing to those customers throughout the heat wave, again these are the times of year we prepare for – we ramp up crews, prepare for any storms that might roll in that we’re not forecasting," Marshall said.
He said there may be spot outages, but not necessarily caused by peak demand for electricity. Customers can use the website or smart phone apps to report outages, and see the map of outages in their area.
Tyler Unger of Genz-Ryan also strongly recommended cleaning the outer fins on air conditioning condensers to keep them working at peak efficiency. It's especially important during this time of year in the Midwest, when cottonwood tree seeds are drifting through the air and getting into those outdoor units.
"The fins on the outside are the outside filter, essentially. So, keeping that clean will help you to remove more heat from the home," Unger told KARE.
"Remember, air conditioning isn't adding cool air as much as it's removing hot air and humidity."
Some people use vacuum cleaners to pull out the debris, but Unger personally prefers washing it with a hose without using too much force.
Those of us who grew up with window unit air conditioners also can recall cleaning the fins in those as well. Again, the concept is to clean off the dirt and seeds using a minimal amount of force so the fins aren't smashed down.
As far as the indoor filters go, Unger recommends pleated paper ones. He said it's important that you don't use one that's so sophisticated at trapping particles that it keeps air from making it through the ducts.
"Air flow is one of the biggest names of the game. Some people can get too restrictive of a filter, and it’s like putting a piece of plywood in there – it’s not going to pull in the air through, it’s going to kill your fan," Unger explained.
"The other end of the spectrum is people get the filter they can see right through and, well now, it’s not stopping anything."
Unger was preparing to stay very busy in the coming days diagnosing AC troubles and explaining the options when it comes to repairing units versus replacing them.