Saving energy while cooling off your home in hot weather has tons of benefits, like conserving natural resources—but it also means something big for your bank account.
In this guide, our team at Cencal Mechanical covers 10 tips that will help save you energy with your air conditioning unit and reduce your monthly electric bill. From quick, DIY to-do’s to longer-term investments and routine AC tune-ups, we’ll show you our best strategies to help shave off cents and dollars every billing cycle.
Table of Contents
- Learn About Time-of-Use Rates
- Seal Your Windows & Doors
- Change Air Filters Every 90 Days (Minimum)
- Replace With Smart Thermostats
- Cover Up Your Unit
- Service Your Unit
- Rearrange the Furniture
- Utilize Shade
- Install Ceiling Fans
- Turn Off the Lights
Learn About Time-of-Use Rates
Check with your utility company about “time-of-use” rates. Most offer what is known as a time-of-use plan, which means they charge more during peak hours of the day and offer cheaper services during off-peak times.
This means you can actually save money by running your AC unit during certain periods and being conscious of when to keep it less active.
When Are Peak Hours?
Peak hours in California’s Central Valley are typically from 4-9 PM, Monday to Friday—the times when most people are usually getting home after a day at work. Pro tip: Weekends are usually considered off-peak, so plan your intensive use on Saturday and Sunday if you’re sticking around the house!
Seal Your Windows & Doors
Ensure that all your windows and doors are properly sealed. By fortifying the barriers between your cozy indoors and the unpredictable outdoors, you’re not only keeping your living space comfortable year-round, but also actively curbing your electricity bill. With these seals, you can keep the scorching summer air out and allow your AC unit to take a break in the thick of the heat.
Change Air Filters Every 90 Days (Minimum)
By committing to regular AC filter changes, you’re not just ensuring cleaner air—you’re also saving bigger on the bill than you may realize. A clogged, overworked filter forces your HVAC system to labor harder, guzzling unnecessary energy.
Every 90 days, changing that air filter out will allow your unit to breathe easy and operate efficiently. This also helps to expand the life of your HVAC system and spares you from unnecessary repairs or replacements. If you run your AC consistently during the warmer months of the year, you may even want to change it on a monthly basis.
Check out our FAQ about air filters, finding the right one, and maintenance of your air filtration in the home.
Use Smart Thermostats
If you don’t have one already, replacing your thermostat with a “smart” thermostat may be one of the best moves you can make to save energy while running your AC. These devices adjust temperatures and adapt to your lifestyle by learning your needs and preferences over time. They detect patterns, like when you’re home, asleep, or away, and control your HVAC equipment’s output accordingly.
You can also control these thermostats remotely via your smartphone or tablet. If you forget to adjust before a week-long vacation, don’t worry—you can simply raise or lower the temperature at a distance and relax, then set a comfortable temperature to return to when you’re on the way home.
Clean Your Outdoor AC Unit
We don’t recommend covering your AC unit to protect it from extreme heat—but we do recommend that you cool it down throughout the summer months with a quick rinse from the hose. This helps protect the system from overheating or overworking.
A simple spray-down can also help to remove dirt, debris, or anything else clogging the unit and hindering its performance—another way to expand the life of your equipment!
Service Your Unit
It is essential that you are servicing your AC unit regularly. Hiring us for professional annual air conditioner tune-ups is the best way to become aware of any present or impending issues and ensure your system is working at optimal levels—which saves energy and money by preventing emergency issues down the road.
Here at Cencal, our team can run detailed diagnostics on your cooling system and tune your air conditioner for peak performance. This will improve your energy efficiency and ensure that you can run your AC smoothly once the heat hits. Pro tip: call us for a tune-up before the summer months arrive.
Rearrange the Furniture
A simple bout of feng shui can lead to big energy savings, because rearranging the furniture in your home can actually make it warmer or cooler! If you’re looking to create a cooler home and a happier AC unit, all you have to do is strategically place your furniture out of reach of direct sunlight. This reduces radiant heat absorption and prevents your system from having to work as hard to keep the home chilled throughout the warmest months of the year.
Pay attention to those sunny spots in and around your home. This tip coincides well with our previous suggestion—once you rearrange your furniture, you should also ensure that you are properly creating shade and reducing the need for extra cool air in certain areas of the home.
This includes but is not limited to:
- Installing blinds or shades on the windows
- Hanging curtains
- Planting trees in the front or backyards to break up direct sun exposure
This purposeful positioning allows your home to be shielded from those strong (and hot) UV rays.
Install Ceiling Fans
Installing ceiling fans is one of the quickest ways to ensure that your AC unit won’t overwork itself throughout the summertime heat waves. This helps save energy and reduce your electric bill.
Ceiling fans help to circulate air, creating a nearly natural breeze that makes your home feel cooler without actually lowering the temperature in the house. That means you can actually set your thermostat higher during hot weather without feeling uncomfortable.
Turn off (& Unplug) the Lights
Lights and electronics generate heat—so, if you’re not using them, they don’t need to be powered on in any way. Cool off every nook and cranny, and your AC unit won’t have to work as hard to cool down your space. It’s an easy way to reduce the need for additional cooling.
Make Your AC More Efficient with Help from Cencal Mechanical
The tips above can all help your air conditioner use less energy during hot weather—but investing in a high-efficiency AC unit can lower your monthly cooling costs even more. For help installing a new air conditioner that brings down your energy bills each month or tuning up your current cooling equipment, contact our team and speak to a team member who can provide you with an accurate estimate. You can also browse the FAQ below for more information.
Frequently Asks Questions about Saving Energy with Air Conditioning Units
Is it cheaper to leave the AC on all day or raise the temperature while you’re away?
There is some debate here, but it is generally more energy and cost-efficient to raise the temperature while you’re away rather than leave the AC unit working all day long. When your home is empty—especially during longer periods like vacations—there’s no need to maintain lower temperatures.
What is the best or most efficient temperature to set your AC to?
The answer to this might hurt those of you who love to set your thermostats at an extra cool 65°F—but in actuality, the most efficient temperature to set your unit to in hot weather is 78°F. However, this may be too warm for most, so we recommend that you try a happy medium around 75°F to minimize energy consumption without sweltering.
Does auto-mode save electricity or energy?
Yes, the auto-mode on your thermostat will absolutely save both electricity and energy. When your system is in “auto” mode, the thermostat’s fan setting will automatically adjust based on the temperature setting you’ve selected. When the desired temperature is reached, the fan will shut off and conserve electricity (and energy).
Air conditioners are essential pieces of home comfort equipment throughout most of the year in California’s balmy Central Valley, but running them all the time can get expensive. Smart thermostats offer a way to reduce energy wastage while keeping your home cool, saving you money without impacting your comfort. But they can bring you other surprising advantages as well!
Our team at Cencal Mechanical Heating & Air, Inc. has years of experience installing, repairing, and maintaining AC equipment—so we know all about the ways in which smart thermostats can help. Here’s our list of the benefits they can bring to your home when you pair them with your air conditioning system.
1. Optimized Cooling Efficiency
- Modern smart thermostats are designed to adjust your HVAC equipment automatically to achieve optimal energy efficiency. This reduces unnecessary energy consumption while keeping the temperature in your home consistent and comfortable.
- Smart thermostats can also be programmed to adjust AC output during specific times—to avoid overcooling during cooler parts of the day or during times when the home is unoccupied.
- Adding a smart thermostat to your home can provide you with savings of up to 15% on your annual cooling costs.
2. Remote AC Management
- Smart thermostats can be paired with your phone or other digital devices so that you can control them at a distance—even from outside the home in many cases.
- Remote control prevents you from having to leave the system running if you forget to turn it off before leaving home. Most smart thermostats are easily accessible via a smartphone app.
- Setting your home to cool down right before you arrive ensures comfort without wasting energy cooling an empty home all day.
3. Better Control for Zoned Cooling
- If your ductwork is partitioned for multi-zone cooling at home, using smart thermostats for each area can make it easier to gather information about your energy usage by sending all the data to a single device.
- Smart thermostats also let you control each zone of your home from the convenience of your phone or tablet. You could set your bedroom to be cooler at night while regulating the living room’s daytime temperature, all without leaving your kitchen.
- Targeting specific zones prevents energy from being wasted by overcooling rooms that aren’t in use, keeping your AC efficient and contributing to monthly savings.
4. Intelligent AC Usage Reports
- Modern smart thermostats provide analytics about how and where your home is using energy. This is a great way to learn about peak AC usage times and areas where you can cut back to save more money.
- You can also use this data to get a clear picture of how your AC functions across different seasons, allowing you to adjust your habits for maximum efficiency during different months.
5. Integration with AC Components & Smart Home Tech
- Advanced smart thermostats from leading brands like Nest and Ecobee can communicate directly with specific AC components, optimizing operations like fan speeds or compressor use. This provides more granular control over your cooling equipment, reducing wear and tear while preventing energy waste.
- Integrating your smart thermostat with other smart home devices, like automated blinds or ceiling fans, can make it even easier to cool your home efficiently. For instance, blinds can be scheduled to close during the hottest parts of the day, reducing the load on the AC.
6. Predictive AC Maintenance Alerts
- Smart thermostats can provide alerts when you need to replace or clean your AC filter, recharge its refrigerant levels, or address other common maintenance issues. This allows you to prevent larger-scale problems from developing later and save yourself money on your cooling costs.
- Regularly maintained AC systems have a longer operational life, better efficiency, and run the risk of fewer breakdowns—so maintenance alerts can allow you to enjoy more consistent comfort and peace of mind as well.
7. Learning Your Cooling Preferences
- Modern smart thermostats are engineered with technology that allows them to “learn” your daily routines over time and adjust the cooling output of your HVAC technology accordingly.
- By adapting to your behavior, the smart thermostat allows your AC to provide you with optimal comfort without using unnecessary energy.
8. Enhancing Your Home Value
- In today’s competitive real estate market, homes with integrated smart AC technology often stand out to prospective buyers.
- Smart thermostats can increase the desirability of your home, making it a prime choice—especially for younger families who are in the market.
Make the Most of Your AC with a Smart Thermostat
Smart thermostats, with their ability to learn and adapt, can provide more than just savings—they can also be an excellent long-term investment in your AC system. By providing more precise control while requiring less effort to adjust their settings, these devices make it easy to use energy efficiently while delivering enhanced comfort and convenience.
As home automation becomes the new normal for California homeowners, including a smart thermostat in your AC system can help you enjoy a smarter, greener, and more cost-effective lifestyle. To learn more about purchasing one of these devices and integrating it into your air conditioner, contact Cencal Mechanical and speak with one of our experts who can answer your specific questions.
Ah, California! The Golden State. A place of nearly endless summers and mild winters (usually). But this unique climate has its own set of quirks that can impact the heating and cooling systems in your home.
We’ve been offering furnace and air conditioning service in the Central Valley long enough to know the importance of accounting for California’s specific environmental factors. Understanding how these affect your HVAC equipment can help you anticipate and overcome potential problems. Let’s take a closer look.
What to Plan For When Heating California Homes
Look Out for Temperature Fluctuations
California’s winters might be mild, but sudden temperature drops can happen. Here’s how it affects your heating:
- Unpredictability: You may find yourself switching from AC to heating within hours.
- Equipment Stress: Sudden demands can put stress on your heating system.
What You Can Do: Regularly check your thermostat and have a professional look at the system before winter kicks in.
Anticipate Humidity Levels
California can get quite humid, especially in the winter. This can affect your heating equipment in several ways:
- Reduced Efficiency: Humidity may cause your heating system to work harder.
- Potential Damage: Increased humidity can lead to rust and other damages.
- What You Can Do: Investing in a dehumidifier can help maintain optimal indoor humidity levels during the winter (although you may also want a whole-home humidifier to add moisture to your air during our dry summer months).
Consider the Coastal Influence
If you live near the coast, salty air can influence your heating in a few different ways as well:
- Corrosion Issues: Salt in the air leads to an increased risk of corrosion in your HVAC system over time.
- Increased Breakdowns: Corrosion on your blower fan or heating elements can force your furnace to work harder than necessary, driving up your utility bills and raising your risk of a costly emergency.
What You Can Do: Schedule regular maintenance for your furnace (including regular duct cleaning). This will help remove salt particles before they have a chance to corrode your system.
What to Remember When Cooling California Homes
Get Ready for Hot Summer Days
The heat in California can be relentless. Here’s how it affects your cooling:
- Increased Workload: Your AC works overtime during hot spells.
- High Energy Bills: Running your cooling equipment constantly throughout the day leads to higher utility bills.
What You Can Do: Shade your outdoor unit and try to keep the thermostat at a consistent setting.
Keep an Eye On Air Quality
Air quality (especially in urban areas) can influence cooling and impact your home comfort as well. Here’s how:
- Filtering Challenges: More pollutants in the air can clog filters faster than usual.
- Health Concerns: Poor air quality might cause discomfort or make respiratory problems worse.
Why Hiring Professional HVAC Technicians Matters
Trust us on this one—hiring professional HVAC technicians is crucial for you to enjoy comfort at home all year round. Here’s why working with our team at Cencal is a smart move:
- Expertise & Skill: With decades of experience serving the Central Valley, we know the ins and outs of California’s climate and how it affects your system.
- Routine Maintenance: Regular checks can catch problems early, saving you money in the long run. Our AC tune-ups start at just $89, and include a comprehensive multi-point inspection of your system to make sure there are no impending issues.
- Safety Assurance: Our total satisfaction promise helps ensure your equipment is functioning safely and efficiently. We never consider our work finished until you’ve approved it.
- Customized Solutions: Our professionals tailor heating and cooling solutions to your specific needs. We don’t just consider the climate—we also consider your home, lifestyle, and comfort preferences to provide solutions that work for you.
California’s weather can be as complex as it is beautiful, but that doesn’t mean your comfort should suffer. Now that you know how the climate impacts your heating and cooling systems, you can take actionable steps to stay cozy and cost-effective.
Contact Cencal Mechanical Heating & Air to make sure your HVAC system is prepared to deal with everything our state can throw at it. Here’s to enjoying your California home, come rain or shine!
Air conditioner maintenance keeps your cooling equipment running the way it should throughout California’s long, hot summer months. Some of it can be done on your own, while other maintenance tasks are complex enough to require professional help. But how do you know the difference, when should you perform or schedule maintenance on your AC, and what kind of costs should you expect?
Don’t worry—the Cencal Mechanical Heating & Air team has spent years working on air conditioners throughout the Central Valley, so we know all about the best way to maintain California cooling systems and we’re here to help. Read ahead to learn everything you’ll need to start planning and performing the tasks that keep your AC running right when the weather really heats up.
DIY Air Conditioner Maintenance: Tasks You Can Do On Your Own
The following AC maintenance tasks are easy enough that most homeowners should be able to tackle them without too much trouble. If you feel challenged by any of these, though, don’t worry—you can always call us for help and have a professional HVAC tech make sure they get done right.
- Cleaning or replacing your air filter: A clean filter allows for better airflow and efficiency, reducing energy costs. Visually check the filter to ensure it’s clean and not clogged. Then replace disposable filters or clean reusable filters with water and mild detergent if necessary.
- Cleaning your outdoor unit: Visually inspect the unit for damage or wear, and remove any debris, leaves, and dirt from the outdoor unit’s surface. Keep plants and bushes at least 2 feet away from the unit to ensure proper airflow.
- Checking your evaporator coils: Before starting your system for the first time this season, access the evaporator coils by opening the utility panel in the indoor unit. Then use a soft brush to remove dust and dirt. For heavily soiled coils, call us for professional help—you don’t want to damage the coils and pay big bucks to replace them.
- Inspecting your ductwork and temporarily patching small leaks: Visually check along your ducts for leaks, holes, or disconnections. If you find small ones, you can use duct mastic or foil-backed tape to patch them—but this is only a temporary fix. You’ll need to call us for help so that we can permanently solve the problem and restore the long-term integrity of your ducts.
- Testing your thermostat’s accuracy: Place a reliable thermometer near the thermostat and compare the readings to make sure your thermostat is working accurately. If there’s a significant difference, recalibrate the thermostat or consider replacing it with a smart thermostat that will automatically adjust itself to accommodate your comfort preferences and use energy efficiently.
Professional Air Conditioner Maintenance: When to Call for Help
There’s a limit to the amount of AC maintenance you can do on your own. Air conditioners are complicated machines with numerous delicate components that can be damaged by inexperienced hands, so it’s best to call our professionals for help with the following tasks:
- Comprehensive inspections and tune-ups: We’ll visit your home and run a complete multi-point inspection on your air conditioner—including its compressor, evaporator and condenser coils, refrigerant lines, blower motor, and more. This includes checking the amount of refrigerant in your system and topping it up if it’s low. We’ll also let you know if we find any urgent or impending mechanical problems that could turn into costly emergencies, and provide you with cost-effective options for fixing them before they reach that point. You should get your AC tuned up this way at least once a year for best results and optimal peace of mind.
- Component replacement or repair: If your AC has already suffered a broken compressor or other major component, do not attempt to replace it on your own. Not only is this a difficult job to do without special tools and knowledge, but it can also void your AC’s warranty. Trust our team to provide an efficient fix instead.
- Installing upgrades for air quality or energy efficiency: Adding an air purifier to your AC can make the air in your home feel considerably fresher, while a humidifier can help prevent dry skin and certain respiratory problems. To make sure these upgrades are installed properly, you’ll want an experienced HVAC technician to put them in.
Extra Tips for Maximizing Your AC Efficiency
- Using proper thermostat settings: Set your thermostat to a comfortable temperature that isn’t too low, as each degree can save energy and reduce costs. Consider using a programmable smart thermostat to adjust temperatures automatically when you’re away or asleep—this can reduce energy waste and save you up to 10-20% on your heating and cooling costs.
- Utilizing fans and natural ventilation: Use ceiling or portable fans to help circulate cool air and create a wind-chill effect, making your home feel cooler without lowering the thermostat. Open windows in the evening to let in cool air and close them during the day to keep heat out.
- Insulating your home: Proper insulation helps keep your home cool in summer by reducing heat transfer between the indoors and outdoors. Insulate your attic, walls, and floors to maintain comfortable temperatures and lower your energy bills.
- Installing energy-efficient windows and doors: Energy-efficient windows and doors minimize heat gain and loss, making it easier for your AC to maintain a comfortable temperature. Look for double-pane windows with low-E glass and well-sealed doors to improve your home’s energy efficiency.
Stay Cool in Cali with Proper AC Maintenance
Knowing the difference between the AC maintenance tasks you can take care of and the ones you can’t gives you the power to keep your cooling system healthy between professional visits and make sure you’re scheduling service when you really need it. To have questions about your specific cooling equipment answered by professionals or book a service call, contact Cencal Mechanical Heating & Air—our team will be happy to help.
Staying cool in the spring and summer is a challenge for many Central Valley residents, since running the air conditioner constantly can quickly become expensive. What many people don’t know is that supplementing your AC with a heat pump can actually bring your cooling costs down significantly, making it much more cost-effective to stay comfortable throughout the hottest months of the year.
Modern heat pumps use less energy than central air conditioners, but can still reduce your indoor temperature significantly—letting you save the AC for those hot days when you really need it (and save money in the long run). Learn more below from our experienced HVAC technicians about how you can use a heat pump to make your home more comfortable and energy-efficient at the same time.
How Does a Heat Pump Work?
Like central air conditioners, heat pumps use refrigerant to move heat from one area to another. Unlike air conditioners, however, heat pumps can also reverse this process to move heat from the outside into your home and raise the temperature, which means they provide both heating and cooling capabilities.
When your heat pump is in cooling mode, it goes through the following steps:
- Refrigerant enters the compressor as a low-pressure gas
- The compressor squeezes the refrigerant to raise its pressure and increase its temperature
- The refrigerant enters the condenser, where it releases its heat to the outdoors and becomes a high-pressure liquid
- The liquid refrigerant moves to the expansion valve where its pressure is released—causing its temperature to drop even further
- The refrigerant reaches the evaporator where it absorbs heat from inside the home and vaporizes into a low-pressure gas
- As a low-pressure gas, the refrigerant enters the compressor and begins the cycle again
Why Heat Pumps Use Less Energy than Air Conditioners
The steps described above are the same basic tasks that your central air conditioner performs—but heat pumps use less energy. Here’s why:
- Using a heat pump to provide heating and cooling with the same system uses much less energy than switching back and forth between separate heating and cooling equipment. This is because most of the energy furnaces and air conditioners use is spent while they’re starting up.
- Heat pumps are often designed with variable-speed compressors, allowing them to operate at lower speeds than air conditioners. This means they can more accurately match their output to your home’s cooling needs and reduce energy waste.
- Our heat pumps also come with WiFi-enabled smart thermostats, which can further enhance energy efficiency by automatically adjusting your equipment to maintain optimal comfort levels in your home.
The Benefits of Heat Pumps for Homeowners
The convenience and energy efficiency heat pumps offer results in numerous benefits for homeowners. Here are a few of the clearest:
Reduce Your Carbon Footprint
High-efficiency heat pumps use up to 60% less energy than conventional central HVAC systems, according to the California Energy Commission. This translates into a reduction of over 5,500 lbs in greenhouse gas emissions every year.
Lower Your Monthly Utility Bills
Using less energy also means paying less each month to cool your home. Based on the numbers above, an average California homeowner could save $1000 on cooling annually with a heat pump—or ~$83 per month. Bear in mind that savings for individual households will vary depending on specific usage habits.
Qualify for Rebates & Incentives
Heat pumps qualify for several rebates and incentive programs that can offset their installation and maintenance costs. For example, you can get a 30% federal tax credit up to $2000 for new heat pump installations that meet the requirements of the Consortium for Energy Efficiency (CEE).
Heat Pump Best Practices
High-efficiency heat pumps provide comparable cooling power to most central air conditioning systems while offering better energy efficiency, so replacing your AC with a new heat pump can be a smart move. Adding a heat pump and keeping your air conditioner is also an option—using the heat pump to supplement your AC on the hottest days of the year is a much more efficient way to cool off than simply pushing your air conditioner to its limits.
Here are some other tips for making the best possible use of your heat pump:
Usage & Maintenance Tips
- Combine your heat pump with a WiFi-enabled smart thermostat to ensure its output is always consistent with your cooling needs (our heat pumps come with these by default).
- Clean or replace your heat pump’s air filter on a monthly basis.
- Keep your doors and windows closed when running your heat pump to prevent hot air from entering.
- Use curtains to stop direct sunlight from entering your home through windows and warming the interior.
- Have your heat pump professionally serviced twice a year (we recommend once in the spring and once in the fall). Our team can diagnose any problems with your heat pump and present you with solutions to ensure its energy efficiency throughout the year’s warmest months.
Using a Heat Pump for Cost-Effective Cooling
While heat pumps aren’t normally effective replacements for central air conditioners in California, they make an excellent way to reduce the amount of energy it takes to cool your home on all but the hottest days of the year. The savings a heat pump provides can easily pay off their installation costs in just a few years, providing you and your family with more income each month.
Contact Cencal Mechanical Heating & Air to learn more about the benefits of installing a heat pump in your home. We’ll be happy to recommend equipment based on your home’s specific cooling needs and provide you with a quote to help you make an informed decision about your comfort.