NEW YORK (WABC) -- When the mercury rises so do our energy bills. The Energy Department says air conditioning adds more than $29 billion a year in utility costs.
So how can you save more than big bucks off your bill and improve your indoor air quality while the wildfires rage on? 7 On Your Side's Nina Pineda has the answers.
You'll save about 3% on your utility bill for every degree you raise the set temperature for your central air, according to the Department of Energy. The recommendations are 78 degrees to be the most energy efficient.
It's been non-stop for Heating Venting and Air Conditioning specialists ever since the Canadians Wildfire choked our skies with smoke.
And all those pollutants which plummeted the air quality are now stuck in your A/C unit condensers.
"You're paying a lot more to have it, it's shortening the life of the unit and it's not able to dissipate the heat, it costs twice as much to run," said Mike Jackson, Owner of Shore Comfort.
Jackson, an HVAC expert, says his Toms River-based company Shore Comfort has been busy, scraping hosing, and unclogging units caked with dirt, debris, and fire particles since the sky turned red last month.
"Anytime you have a fire from wood there is always ash in that smoke, smoke is a carcinogen, anytime it gets in that house it gets caught in the filter," he said.
It's important to hire a licensed professional to do this job who can safely cut electricity first, and gently clean the metal without damaging it.
"Typically when a homeowner does this themselves this a danger. You can go in the other direction and actually close these fins. They are very thin aluminum and what happens is no air can get through it," Jackson said.
What you can do on your own is turn off your air conditioning and vacuum out those dust-filled vents.
Also, replace those dirty filters, both in the ceiling vents and the ones on your A/C unit itself.
"You can see the dirt that's accumulated, you can tell just by looking at it that's its due," he said.
Change filters every 30 to 60 days if you're allergy-free. A good air filter with a MERV or Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value between 8-10 will keep your central A/C working well by catching dust and grease, and protecting mechanicals so those energy costs don't rise.
"When you change it they always have an arrow you always want that faces the unit," Jackson said.
Many of Jackson's clients are investing in air purifiers to reduce bacteria, mold viruses, and allergens in the air ducts. The Reme Halo uses UV light and low-level hydrogen peroxide to circulate and clean the air inside the home.
Next, check your ceiling fans to make sure they are turning counterclockwise during the summer.
"We tell people to reverse the direction so the air's getting pushed down in the summer," Jackson said. "That cool air movement is going to make you feel cooler, even if it's slighter warmer in your home."
Attics trap a ton of heat too. Make sure you have an attic fan.
"That's really going to make a huge difference in your utility bill," he said. "If you don't have some means of pulling that out it heats up the house from top down."
Closing curtains or blinds on the sunny side of your home or apartment will also cool things down.
Running appliances at night saves energy.
And, shut the fireplace flue, too.
"It's just another place that your heat can go out or your air conditioning can get pushed out," Jackson said.
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