How to Save Money on Air Conditioning Costs: 17 Tips and Tricks

With the hottest days of summer right around the corner, you’re probably bracing yourself for higher AC bills. While some increase is inevitable, there are practical ways to cut costs and keep those utility bills in check. 

Having worked as an HVAC technician myself, I’ve learned all the tricks on how to save money on air conditioning costs — and now I’m sharing them with you! 

1. Change or clean your air filter 

Your air conditioner’s air filter is one of the most important components of your HVAC system. The filter traps dirt, pollen, and other debris and keeps them from entering your home. Over time, the filter blocks so much junk that it gets clogged, and air has a hard time passing through it. 

When this happens, your AC becomes overworked and suffers a big drop in efficiency. To keep this from happening, simply turn off your AC, remove the air filter, and either clean or replace it, depending on the type of filter you have. If you’re not comfortable doing this, you should hire a maintenance man or HVAC pro to do it for you. 

2. Invest in AC maintenance 

Along with cleaning your air filter, it’s important to have your air conditioner serviced every year. Annual AC maintenance includes a thorough cleaning of your unit, a careful inspection of parts, and fixing anything that’s damaged. This ensures your AC works efficiently and helps prevent costly repairs. 

3. Upgrade your AC 

Depending on the age and condition of your air conditioner, you might be better off upgrading to a new one. This is especially true if your AC: 

  • Is more than 20 years old. 
  • Has required several recent repairs. 
  • Is an inefficient model. 

Also, if you’re planning to upgrade your furnace, it’s more cost-effective to replace both HVAC appliances at the same time. 

Regardless, efficiency and durability are your top two priorities when upgrading your air conditioner. The best way to ensure a new AC unit ticks both boxes is to choose a high-quality brand and hire a respected HVAC professional to perform the installation. 

>RELATED: Ready to Upgrade? Find a Same-Day Personal Loan

4. Program your thermostat 

One of the easiest ways to save money on your AC bills is to program your thermostat around your daily routine. 

For instance, if your home is empty during the day, program your thermostat to a higher temperature so the AC doesn’t run as often. Then, when you’re home at night, keep it set to a cooler, more comfortable temperature. 

5. Invest in a smart thermostat 

If you don’t want to program or manually adjust your thermostat settings yourself, you might be better off upgrading to a smart thermostat. 

Smart thermostats, also known as learning thermostats, adapt to your personal temperature preferences. So, if you typically turn the temperature down at night and up during the day, your thermostat will pick up on that habit and adjust automatically. 

Smart thermostats are also Wi-Fi enabled, which means you can turn them up or down if you’re away from home and forget to change temperatures before you leave. 

6. Open your windows 

Strategically opening a few windows will let in fresh air and create cross-breezes inside your home. This can be particularly useful on an overcast or rainy day when you want to give your AC a break. 

You should only use this tip if it isn’t too hot outside, however, as opening windows on a hot day will defeat the purpose and cause your AC unit to work overtime. Opening your windows is also most effective when used in conjunction with our next tip. . . 

7. Use portable and stationary fans 

Running ceiling fans, box fans, and other portable fans inside your home circulates air and creates a wind-chill effect on your skin. Whether you use fans with the windows open or shut, they can allow you to turn the thermostat up slightly so you’re relying less on the air conditioner. 

8. Close your window shades 

Keep any blinds, shades, or curtains drawn in the heat of the day, especially if you have older, single-pane windows. 

When sunlight shines on objects inside your home, it heats them up. This, in turn, raises the ambient temperature and causes your air conditioner to kick on. Blocking that sunlight during the hottest part of the day will help maintain a consistent, comfortable temperature, especially if you use blackout curtains or dark solar shades. 

9. Install window film 

If you live in an area where the sun is so intense that even window shades can’t block the heat, consider reflective window covers. 

Privacy film, heat control film, and thermal reflective foil (like the material used for car windshields), are designed to reduce glare and redirect heat. Installing the film on every window is a big DIY project, for sure, but it’s an economical option that can make a big difference. 

10. Plant trees 

In addition to being good for the environment, planting trees in strategic locations in your yard creates shade, making your home less prone to overheating on hot summer days. 

Of course, waiting for trees to grow large enough to shade your home is more of a long-term strategy. Still, if you don’t plan to move anytime soon, it might be an investment worth making! 

11. Check seals and insulation 

Older homes rarely have enough insulation in the walls, floors, and ceilings to keep cool air in and hot air out. They also tend to leak conditioned air through door and window seals. As a result, your air conditioner must work extra hard to keep your home cool. 

According to ENERGY STAR, adding insulation, sealing leaks, and installing new windows and weather stripping can save up to 10% on your annual heating and cooling bills

12. Seal air ducts 

If you have a central air system, it’s important to schedule regular air duct inspections. Having installed and repaired air ducts myself, I’ve seen firsthand how many holes, cracks, and gaps can form in ductwork when they’re not sealed properly. These issues can lead to mold, safety hazards, and high utility bills. 

The good news is that leaky air ducts are fairly easy to fix as long as the ductwork is accessible. Any HVAC professional should be able to handle the job with minimal difficulty, and the money you’ll save on your energy bill will far outweigh the cost of sealing your ducts. 

13. Hang out in cooler parts of the house 

Air conditioners were a luxury when I was growing up. We had one, but it was more important to be frugal than comfortable, so we rarely turned it on. Rather than complain about the heat, however, we’d simply hang out in the basement where it was cool and dry. 

Basements can be up to 20 degrees cooler than the rest of a home because cold air naturally falls and hot air rises. If you have a basement, you can use this to your advantage! 

Other parts of a home that tend to be cooler are rooms shaded by exterior trees or those that aren’t exposed to direct sunlight. 

14. Avoid cooking indoors 

Firing up your stovetop or oven can increase the temperature in your home by up to 10 degrees, which is enough to send your AC into overdrive. If you’re on a budget, it’s best to enjoy no-cook or microwave meals that won’t heat up your kitchen. 

If you have to use your stove on a hot day, crack a kitchen door or window and position a fan to blow the hot air outside. 

15. Close vents to unused areas 

The easiest way to save money on air conditioning costs is to close off vents to unused rooms. For example, if you have a spare bedroom that goes mostly unused, you can close or seal off the vent. In so doing, you’ll redirect cool air to other, more lived-in parts of your home. 

16. Look for tax credits 

Many upgrades that improve a home’s energy efficiency may be eligible for federal tax credits. These include investments like high-efficiency air conditioners, new insulation, upgraded windows and doors, and more! While tax credits may not pay for an entire upgrade, they often result in a nice discount that makes it easier to budget for any home renovations

>RELATED: Home Improvement Ideas to Increase Your Home’s Value 

17. Explore energy assistance programs 

In addition to energy tax credits, you may also qualify for an energy assistance program. Both the government and local utility companies offer energy assistance programs, such as the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program

These programs help people who have lower incomes or are struggling to make ends meet with their energy bills. Visit or contact your electricity provider to see if you qualify for any programs. 

>RELATED: 5 Ways to Get Help Paying Your Electric Bill 

Air conditioning FAQs 

What do I do when the AC goes out? 

When it’s dangerously hot outside, you’ll want to contact an HVAC repair professional immediately. It doesn’t take long for a house to overheat and lead to heatstroke, so the sooner you get your AC back up and running, the better. 

If you can’t afford to have your AC fixed or an HVAC technician can’t respond right away, stay hydrated, wear light clothing, and avoid physical exertion. You might even consider an emergency loan to cover repair costs, especially if you live an area with dangerously high temperatures. 

How long does an air conditioning unit last? 

On average, an air conditioner should last for 15 to 20 years. Certain AC brands, such as Trane and Rheem, are higher quality and last longer than other air conditioners. You can also extend the lifespan of your AC with proper maintenance, whereas a lack of maintenance can cut its lifespan significantly. 

How much does a new AC unit cost? 

New air conditioners can cost anywhere from $500 to $3,500, depending on the type and brand you choose. For instance, window air conditioners and portable ACs are much cheaper than a central AC or mini-split unit. Be sure to choose the air conditioner that fits your budget. 

What is the best temperature to save money on AC? 

The ideal temperature setting for your thermostat during summer is 78 degrees if saving money is a priority. 78 degrees is low enough to keep you and your family safe, but not so low that your AC will run nonstop. 

Final thoughts on how to save money on AC bills 

Regardless of your budget, there are plenty of ways to save money on air conditioning costs. While some of the above tips require an investment or sweat equity, they’re often worth it. Not only can energy-efficient upgrades help you save money on this summer’s utility bills, but they could end up paying for themselves in the long run!

About the Author

Jalin Coblentz has contributed to Advance America since 2023. His experiences as a parent, full-time traveler, and skilled tradesman give him fresh insight into every personal finance topic he explores.

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