12 July 2011
Hot Weather Hits Home: How to Beat Blistering Bills

Nevada’s hottest month on record? July 1931.

That was the month the mercury boiled to a sweltering 118º at Las Vegas, 108º at Winnemucca and Minden, and 105º at Austin – records that still stand. (Unofficially, temperatures reportedly rose to 131º at the construction site of the Boulder Dam during this extreme heat wave.)

Temperatures hopefully won’t hit that high this summer. Still, Nevada summers can wreck havoc on utility bills. In fact, heating and cooling costs are nearly half the average home’s total energy bill.

To beat the blistering bills of summer, consider these home cooling tips:

Understand efficiency. The efficiency level of a central air conditioner is determined by its Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER). Think of an air conditioner’s SEER rating as similar to the miles-per-gallon rating for automobiles. The more energy-efficient the air conditioning equipment, the higher the SEER rating, because less electricity is needed to cool your home. A high-efficiency unit with a 13 SEER uses up to 30 percent less energy than an older 10 SEER unit.

So, select the highest SEER system you can afford. Sometimes the savings from lower utility bills are enough to partially or fully offset the cost of the new system within a few years (ask your contractor to calculate the payback period).

Look for the EnergyStar rating. If your central air conditioning unit is more than 12 years old, replacing it with an ENERGY STAR qualified model could cut your cooling costs by 30 percent. ENERGY STAR qualified central air conditioners have higher SEER and energy-efficiency ratio (EER) ratings, making them about 14 percent more efficient.

Don’t forget the blower. The only way to ensure that your new energy-efficient air conditioner performs at its rated efficiency is to also replace the blower motor – which is usually part of the furnace – at the same time. It’s especially recommended if your furnace is over 15 years old.

Cash in on rebates. NV Energy’s CheckMe!® Plus AC Program offers instant rebates of up to $1,000 for energy efficient improvements. Just log on to the NV Energy (www.nvenergy.com) website to learn more about rebates for the following:

- Replacing an inefficient air conditioner or heat pump with a high-efficiency unit

- Air conditioner and heat pump tuneups

- Addition of a specialized cooling control designed for the Nevada climate

- Installation of a high-efficiency fan motor

- Duct testing and sealing

Try a low-cost trick. Spray air conditioner filters with a light coating of lemon furniture polish or vegetable oil cooking spray to help trap dirt in the filter. Then, replace filters regularly to keep your system working efficiently.

Know when to say when. The life expectancy of a central air conditioner is approximately 15 years. But if your unit starts having more problems than seem cost-effective to repair – particularly if major components such as a compressor require replacement – it may be more sensible in the long run to replace rather than repair.

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