How To Beat The Heat Of High Cooling Costs

When it gets hot outside, Americans love it cool-very cool-inside.

(NAPSI)-A recent national survey found that the average home thermostat setting during daytime hours on the hottest days of the year is 73 degrees. The survey-commissioned by Emerson, a leading provider of energy-efficient HVAC technologies used by major air conditioning manufacturers-found that the average nighttime setting is 72 degrees. This contrasts with energy efficiency experts who suggest setting the thermostats at 78 degrees when people are home.

Keeping cool carries a cost. In southern states like Texas and Florida, air conditioning accounts for as much as two-thirds of the summer electric bill. Even in Minnesota where I live most homes now have central air conditioning to make life a little more enjoyable during our all-too-short but humid summers.

So how can you take the heat out of rising utility bills without sacrificing indoor comfort?

Here are three easy ways to keep your utility bills in check while keeping cool:

1. Don’t touch that dial. Nearly 20 percent of homeowners are manually adjusting their thermostat at home two, three, or more times a day, according to the Emerson survey. In many cases, multiple members of the household are in control of the thermostat.

All those fingers fiddling with thermostat settings costs money. It’s time to install and use a programmable thermostat. You can program these wonderful gadgets to automatically adjust your home’s temperature when you’re sleeping or away-and cut your energy bill anywhere from 10 to 30 percent.

The best thermostats maintain a precise temperature and come with a preset program that’s easy to customize and won’t lose your settings after a power outage.

Tip: If you can’t remember how to set your programmable thermostat, visit the manufacturer’s Web site on the Internet. For example, the operating manuals for Emerson’s White-Rodgers brand of thermostats are posted on their Web site at

2. Look for high SEER ratings. More than three-fourths of homeowners with central air conditioning in the Emerson survey didn’t recognize the term “SEER rating.” In fact, some people mistakenly associated it with “cooking intensity,” “weather condition,” or “fortune telling.”

SEER is the acronym for Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio, the federally mandated rating system for energy efficiency of air conditioners. The current minimum is 10 SEER, but after January 2006 all new systems sold in the United States must be at least 13 SEER.

If you are buying a central air conditioner, select the highest SEER-rated system you can afford. Your HVAC contractor should fully explain the features and efficiency ratings for the air conditioning systems being recommended in your budget range.

Tip: For the best energy efficiency, reliability, and lowest operating sound, make sure your air conditioner uses a scroll compressor. For the ultimate in efficiency and climate control, look for air conditioners containing the new two-stage Copeland Scroll UltraTech&#0153 compressors made by Emerson.

3. Make routine maintenance a priority. More than a third of homeowners say they have not had their central air conditioner inspected or serviced by a professional contractor in the past year and do not expect to this spring or summer.

There are a number of routine maintenance tasks that homeowners can do on their own, such as regularly changing disposable air filters (or cleaning electronic air cleaners) on the indoor blower unit; keeping debris away from the outdoor unit; and hosing off the condenser fins on the outdoor unit.

But just like regular tune-ups for your car, it really pays to have a contractor inspect and service your air conditioning and furnace system annually to make sure it is operating at peak performance.

Tip: Be sure your contractor is licensed, well trained, and experienced. Look for firms whose employees are certified by the North American Technician Excellence (NATE) training program.

By Dean Johnson

Dean Johnson is host of “Hometime,” the do-it-yourself home-improvement television series that’s currently aired by 325 public television stations across the country. For more information on Dean and Hometime, visit For more information on climate technology products from Emerson, visit