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How to Get the Most Out of Central Air-Conditioning

Lower your A/C bills by making sure your system is operating at peak efficiency.


  • Step 1: Get a programmable thermostat Get a programmable thermostat. It can save up to 15 percent on your cooling costs because the system kicks in only when it's needed.
  • TIP: Every degree below 78 degrees raises your energy bill by 3 to 4 percent.
  • Step 2: Maintain your system Check the filters every month, and clean or change them as needed. Also make sure the ducts are free of leaks: An estimated 20 percent of the air that moves through them is lost to holes and poor connections.
  • Step 3: Shut some vents Shut the vents in rarely used rooms so you're not cooling them unnecessarily.
  • Step 4: Maintain your furnace Maintain your furnace. Central air uses the same blower and air ducts, so having annual service checks to make sure it's running at optimum efficiency often reduces your heating and cooling costs.
  • TIP: Save even more money by asking if your energy provider has a peak-demand rebate system, or other rebates for energy efficiency.
  • Step 5: Get an energy efficient unit When it's time to replace your unit, get one with a seasonal energy efficiency ratio, or SEER, of 13 or higher. It should also have a thermal expansion valve, which makes the system more efficient during very hot weather. And make sure it has a fan-only switch, which lowers bills by letting you take advantage of cool summer nights.
  • FACT: Air conditioners lose about 5 percent of their efficiency every year if you don't have them serviced.

You Will Need

  • Programmable thermostat
  • Clean filters
  • Closed vents
  • Annual furnace maintenance
  • Energy-efficient unit
  • Temperature set to 78 degrees Fahrenheit or higher (optional)
  • Energy-efficiency rebates (optional)

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