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Turn Off Your Air Conditioner and Save Summer Money

This article was written by in Featured, Frugality. 12 comments.


Last week, the New York metropolitan area experiences a heat wave with temperatures above 100°F for several days. The hazy, hot, and humid weather kept people in the air-conditioned indoors as much as possible. Con Edison, the power company that provides electricity to New York City, called customers asking them to preserve energy by turning off their air conditioners and other appliances to reduce the chance of blackouts or other power interruptions.

Naturally, some residents took this as a sign of impending blackouts and acted in the opposite direction of the request, ensuring their dishes were clean, laundry finished, and as cool as possible just in case the power went out.

The air conditioner is the single biggest factor in summer power bills. You can save hundreds of dollars during the hottest months by modifying your behavior.

Use a small fan to keep yourself cool. Central air conditioning works in every room, but any one person can only occupy one room at any one time. A portable fan keeps the cooler, moving air with you rather than wasting energy cooling empty rooms.

Turn off the lights. Light bulbs generate heat, so keep them off or replace high-wattage bulbs with energy efficient lights. Refrain from using the stove or oven. The microwave isn’t a bad choice but consider grilling outside if you can.

Use someone else’s electricity. I don’t mean steal from your neighbors. Spend some time in a library or a movie theater, two locations often air conditioned.

For several more suggestions, check out a recent discussion on the Consumerism Commentary Podcast about saving money during the summer. Share your summer money saving tips here.

Photo: Joe Marinaro

Updated December 22, 2011 and originally published July 13, 2010. If you enjoyed this article, subscribe to the RSS feed or receive daily emails. Follow @ConsumerismComm on Twitter and visit our Facebook page for more updates.

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About the author

Luke Landes, also known as Flexo, is the founder of Consumerism Commentary. He has been blogging and writing for the internet since 1995 and has been building online communities since 1991. Find out more about him and follow Luke Landes on Twitter. View all articles by .

{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar annk

Fine. I’ll turn off my air conditioner in June-September in Central Texas as long as everyone turns off their heaters in December-February in the northeast.

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avatar Luke Landes ♦127,485 (Platinum)

Hehe. Yeah, not all locations are as flexible as the Northeast, where I live.

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avatar Split Cents

My wife and I have been following this advice and availing ourselves of the OPE (other peoples’ electricity). I’m currently studying for the bar exam, and the air conditioning & power at the Boston Public Library has worked nicely. Of course, if you find a way to mooch electricity from neighbors, let me know (I’m pretty sure our neighbor keeps hacking our wireless network)!!

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avatar Doug Warshauer

You’re right, the air conditioner is a huge user of electricity. Another tip I’ve heard helps is unplugging your appliances when you’re not using them, as they consume electricity when they are plugged in, even if they are not turned on.

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avatar Steve

Unplugging your VCR isn’t in the same class of energy savings as turning off your AC.

On the other hand, going to the movies, while a popular way to get “free” AC, is hardly cost effective.

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avatar Luke Landes ♦127,485 (Platinum)

Movies can be expensive, though if you have kids, some theaters have summer programs, some free and others somewhat affordable. You may prefer libraries, too.

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avatar Kyle

I’m with annk. Georgia just gets too hot in the summer to go without AC. I do turn it up to 85 when I’m at work or know I’ll be away from home for at least a few hours, but that’s as far as I’ll go.

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avatar H Lee D

I’m another in a desert climate. We have a swamp cooler that saves us a lot of money in early and late summer (maybe late spring or early fall, depending on when the weather heats up or cools down). We keep the thermostat over 80 always and use ceiling fans, but when the overnight low is hot enough to be considered a “heat wave” back east, turning the AC off makes for miserable inhabitants.

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avatar Savingeverything

You could stay at malls, cafes, and restaurants during the hot times of the day. Take cold or luke warm shower when you sleep and when you wake up. Use solar powered fans.

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avatar Financial Samurai

You guys know what I’m gonna say right?

To save money, all ya gotta do is live out West! There’s no such thing as AC out here, at least in SF. We just open the windows if it gets hot!

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avatar Money Funk

LOL. Funny, Sam.
We are on a Program that saves us money on our electric bill in return for the company being allowed to turn off the AC during high peak times. But they can only shut it off up to 1 hour every 3 or 4 hours. So your house will remain moderately temp if they shut it off. I’ve been on the program 4 years now and they have yet to utilize the feature.

Last month’s bill $70. This month’s bill was $35. Sweet! I’ll keep using the AC (but we only started today because its gonna be 100+).

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avatar Linda Dabney

I usually turn off my central air every morning because my house stays cool all day and then turn it back on at night when it becomes hot an stuffy. I was tol that turning it off and on can break the compressor. Is this true?

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