Most St. Louisans regard air conditioning as a necessity, especially when the temperature begins hitting the 90s almost every day. If you want to stay cool without going into shock over your electric bills, the BBB recommends that you take some simple steps to keep your unit running efficiently.
Today's release is loaded with tips on air conditioning and how to find reliable contractors if you need service, repair or replacement of your unit.
St. Louis, Mo., June 21, 2012 – After record-smashing heat this spring, consumers may be worried about the hot summer months to come. The Better Business Bureau (BBB) has tips to help you stay cool while avoiding budget-busting bills.
The three-month period from March through May was the hottest on record, according to the National Climatic Data Center. Many consumers turned on their air conditioners earlier than normal and expect to keep them on for most of the summer. If this year is at all typical, more than 3 million residential air conditioning units will fail before the cooling season is over.
“Keeping cool can be a challenge, especially if your budget is tight,” said Michelle L. Corey, BBB President and CEO. “Simple steps, such as clearing debris and
changing your filter, can keep your unit running efficiently. If you need to repair or replace it, you need to find a reliable contractor and know what to look for to minimize energy use.”
A programmable thermostat can save energy by allowing temperatures to rise when you’re not at home. Don’t keep your house colder than necessary. A setting no lower than 78 degrees is recommended for daytime; 78 to 82 at night. Closing
off rooms you don’t use also can save money. Don’t forget to turn the air
conditioning off if you’re going on vacation – or even away for a long weekend.
Consider having your heating and cooling system checked by an HVAC professional twice a year. Keeping your system properly maintained will lower your energy and repair costs, prevent breakdowns and prolong the life of your unit. Without routine maintenance your system performance degrades over time until it eventually fails.
If you need to repair or replace your unit – or you just need routine maintenance
- BBB Business Reviews can help you find a reliable contractor. The BBB rates companies on a scale of A+ to F, using 16 factors, including how the company responds to complaints. The reviews are available at www.bbb.org or by
Replacing a unit that was installed in the 1990s with an Energy Star qualified model could save up to 30 percent in cooling costs, according to Ameren, the electric utility in St. Louis. Other things to consider when replacing a unit:
- Look at the unit’s Seasonal Energy Efficiency Rating (SEER). The higher the number, the less energy it uses to cool. Look for a rating of 16 or higher. Some new units may have a rating of 25 or higher.
- Buy a unit that is sized to fit your home. Ask your contractor for recommendations.
- Check your refrigerant. If the label on your outside air conditioner lists R-22, you should consider an upgrade because R-22 contributes to ozone depletion. R-22 is being phased out and will no longer be available after 2015. R-410A is a more environmentally friendly refrigerant.
- Consider placing the outside unit in the shade, where it will run more efficiently. You can plant shrubs or trees around it, but make sure not to plant so close that air flow is restricted. Keep weeds and other structures away from the unit.
- Ask for a written estimate and contract, and be sure you read and understand it. To make sure the bid is reasonable, seek estimates from at least three contractors.
- Don’t pay the entire amount before the unit is installed. Consider paying a third to secure the contract, another third when the work is half done and the final third only when the work is completed to your satisfaction.