Now that we're well into spring, we know warmer weather is coming.
I asked Suzanne Holtkamp, vice president at Holtkamp Heating & Air Conditioning in Suwanee, Ga., to share some reminders on how to keep cooling bills down as things heat up:CHANGE YOUR FILTERS
"The No. 1 reason people will call us when it gets over 90 degrees and they've flipped on their air conditioning - sometimes for the first time - is their filter is completely clogged up, and they haven't changed it. And what it does is it trips the system off," Holtkamp says. Her company recommends people change their filter at least every three months, if not every month. If you have trouble remembering to do so, try this: Buy a 12-pack of filters, number them with a marker (one for each month) and stack them next to your HVAC system. That way you'll know each month if you've changed them.PROFESSIONAL HELP
You might change the air filter yourself, but there are other parts - like the condenser coil - you're unlikely to fiddle with. Improper maintenance could weaken your unit's performance by 20 to 30 percent, Holtkamp estimates. "It not only cuts down on the efficiency, so your electricity bills are going to be a lot higher, but it also cuts down on the life of the unit itself." Some HVAC manufacturers require regular maintenance to uphold the warranty.USE THERMOSTAT PROPERLY
You have a programmable thermostat, but do you know how to use it? If you're jacking the air up to 88 degrees when you're not home, thinking it will save you money, it might be backfiring on you. "What happens is, your system's not running, and it doesn't properly remove the humidity from your indoor air," Holtkamp says. "So when you come home and you crank it back down again, you're actually having to remove all of that excess humidity from the air, and sometimes it will run all night."GET AN ENERGY AUDIT
"Here in the Atlanta area, insulation in the summer is actually more important than it is in the winter, and that's because we've got such high-humidity days and such a long season," Holtkamp says. But insulation isn't the only solution to air "leakage." An energy audit from your HVAC company will pinpoint what needs to be insulated, as well as other problem areas. Many times energy is leaving through doors, windows or even recessed lighting, Holtkamp says. "We've had as much as 50 percent of the leakage in the house come from sources that don't have to do with insulation."DECORATE
Insulated curtains are one of the easiest ways to control the inside temperature. Rooms with windows looking east or west will be the most affected. "We used to have a dining room that used to face west," Holtkamp says. "In the middle of July, I swore there was a torch coming in through my windows. I got curtains that had insulated backing on them, and it helped a tremendous amount."
(c)2012 The Atlanta Journal-Constitution