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The True Cost of Staying Cool | Home & Hood

The True Cost of Staying Cool | Home & Hood


When things heat up in the summer, many Coloradans turn on the A/C, plug in the swamp coolers, and run their fans.

As summer peaks and the temperatures remain high, many locals seeks the comfort of a well cooled indoor space. Especially at the end of the day when folks are looking to relax and kick back after a long day at work, the sound of condensers fill the air. Nothing feels better than a cool breeze on your face after a day out and about in the mid 90’s, but what is the true cost of staying cool?

On the micro level, running your A/C daily may seem like nothing more than a convenience for those who have it, but let’s consider the whole picture. On the macro level, the entire neighborhood running their fans at full speed and the central air blasting is an accurate description of most neighborhoods in July. The impact of staying cool does have costs to our wallets and the environment. Let’s consider what our desire for a chilled home is really costing us.

Residential Electricity Use Per Capita (shrinkthatfootprint.com)

The US has the second largest average household consumption per year in the world, second only to Canada. There are several factors that drive the differences in household consumption; including wealth, physical house size, appliance standards, electricity prices, access to alternative cooking, and of course heating and cooling usage. These variables provide data that shows similarities in both high and lower usage homes.

When you consider the consumption rates with the access per capita, according to shrinkthatfootprint.com, each American uses about 4,500 kWh per year in their home. That is six times the global average per capita, or more than five times the average for those who have electricity access. As a country we use exorbitant amounts of electricity per person and our heating and cooling convenience costs are a major contributor to these statistics.

“People are no longer just passively exposed to heating, cooling and lighting. They actually control them and that way, they can directly have an impact on the energy performance of a building.”

Great Eastern Energy states that an average of 87% of American homes have installed a room or central A/C unit. Because of the seasonal spike in usage across the country the usage and costs of hot summer afternoons is easy to recognize both in your monthly bill and when reviewing regional data. Consumers with a variable rate electricity plan can experience intense spikes in their power bill because when electricity demand is high, prices get higher. Some customers state that cooling costs account for over 50 percent of their summer bills.

Actual monetary costs depend on your energy provider and environmental effects of that electricity depend on the diversification of your provider. Even if you are managing to pay financially for your comfort cooling costs, cutting back on your A/C use has environmental benefits. Carbon emissions both from the use of an A/C unit and the plant that provides the electricity can be reduced by paying more attention to your personal usage.

“People are no longer just passively exposed to heating, cooling and lighting,” Dr. Roetzel, Lecturer in Architecture Sustainability explains. “They actually control them and that way, they can directly have an impact on the energy performance of a building.”

Satellite image of US electricity sources

The power we have in today’s society in controlling the amount and type of power we utilize and how much we use is something we need to be taking advantage of. While our widely available access to “unlimited” energy just on the other side of our nearest outlet has become so convenient, sometimes we plug in without considering.

As people become more aware of their personal energy consumption use and learn ways to adjust their lifestyle to reduce their carbon footprint, benefits can be felt both on the micro and the macro levels. As temperatures are expected to get more extreme, we should consider more sustainable ways to keep cool.

Based on data provided by the Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S), June 2019 was the hottest month ever recorded by the EU‘s satellite agency. Data showed that the global average temperature for June 2019 was the highest on record ever for the earth. It is time to recognize and take action in efforts to lower energy usage while dealing with the hottest times on the planet.

By making some small changes in your routine and being more attentive to the way you utilize your cooling equipment, especially in the peak of the heat season, we can all contribute to lower the cost to our budgets and our planet. So before you put the dial on full blast, consider the true cost of staying cool this summer.

By creating a progressive change in the way we think about our cooling costs and making changes to our habits, real impact can take place.


Top 10 Tips for reducing cooling costs both to the environment and your wallet include:

1. Make sure your unit has been well-maintained and has had a recent tune-up.

2. Setting your thermostat to a reasonable temp rather than your ideal temperature. Each degree above 75*F can save you up to 10-15%. It’s recommended to set your thermostat at 78* on hot days and 82* when you’re out of the house.

3. Increase your household fan usage and turn down the A/C. While fans may be old school, they move the air just as designed. When you utilize fans you are maximizing your cooling efforts.

4. Open your windows at night. Let the cool night air in so you can trap it for the next day.

5. Close off unused rooms to concentrate the cool air you have.

6. Use layers of shade. Get darkening blinds and shades to prevent the daytime sunshine from heating up the air in its path.

7. Plant shrubs and trees on the south and west sides of your house in front of windows. Not only  do they block the sunlight from entering the house, but they can absorb the heat and help provide shade.

8. Consider not using the oven or stove for cooking. Cook outside and increase the number of cold meals.

9. Consider the color of your roof. Light colors reflect the heat from the sun rather than absorb it like a dark color would.

10. Consider retrofitting cooling updates to your home. By adding reflective coating to windows, updating your duct work and ensuring your insulation is high quality; ensures you are maximizing your efficiency.