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Lower your air-conditioning bills with the 20 degree rule

The secret to lower electricity bills when the air conditioner is running full time.

SAN ANTONIO — The hum of the air conditioner is a familiar summer sound. One that signals you are spending money. There is a trick Robert Dunn of San Antonio has been using to keep his summer power bills affordable.

“The air condition can make you or break you,” he said. “I really can’t imagine paying $300 to $400 a month during the heat of the summer.”

He follows the 20 degree rule.

“Air conditioners really are functioning at their optimum level when it’s a 20 degree differential from outside air temperature to inside your home,” said John Moreno of CPS Energy.

That means if it is 100 degrees outside, your thermostat should be at 80. Yes, that is hotter than most of us like it.

“It’s not necessarily going to be the most comfortable temperature setting for an individual,” Moreno said. “It’s going to be the most comfortable setting for your pocketbook.”

Every degree lower, your bill will increase seven to 10 percent. Lower temperature settings will also keep your air conditioner running longer, reducing its lifespan. Just ask AJ Santellana a service technician with Jon Wayne Service Company who spends long summer days making repairs.

“The summer, of course, is our busiest season of the year. My first call is at eight o’clock,” he said. “I sometimes get home between seven to eight o’clock depending on how severe the equipment is, if its barely hanging on.”

The trick to feeling cool even when the thermostat is at 80 is to turn on a fan, but only when you are in the room.

“The price for a ceiling fan in comparison to an air conditioner is a fraction of the cost,” said Moreno. “A ceiling fan can cost you anywhere from half a penny to a penny an hour.”

Running the air conditioner will cost much more, about 15 to 45 cents.

Fans can make a warmer indoor temperature tolerable.

“You get better airflow movement,” said Santellana. “It’s just not stagnant when the AC does turn off.”

“It’s comfortable,” said Dunn. “Livable. You can work without becoming exhausted from heat.”

Plus, it will not exhaust your budget for your power bill.

“Our electrical bill, even during the heat of the summer, has been about $180 a month, which to us is reasonable,” Dunn said. “We can live with that.”

Your electric bill can also depend on how well your home is weatherized and the age of your air conditioning unit.

Other tips for lowering your power bill in the summer do not close door or vents when your air conditioner is running. Leave your air on when you are not home during the day, but raise the temperature a few degrees. Turn off your air if you are gone for several days. See more tips on air conditioner efficiency from CPS Energy.