Air Conditioning – What does it Cost?

Recently I was thinking where can I get the most bang for my buck in saving money in the operation of my house. The best way to figure this out is to look at resources and see what needs are filled. The needs a house provides is shelter. Within that need are a bunch of supporting needs. There are functions that are done in a home which effect the operating costs.

Supporting needs:

  • Heating / Cooling
  • Electricity
  • Storage
  • Personal Hygiene
  • Food Prep

Each one of these supporting needs can be broken down further to maximize savings. I’m only going to address the heating and cooling in this article. Again I’d like to start by seeing if I could use the 80/20 rule to find the most bang for the buck. Between space heating, space cooling, & water heating it is about 70% of the energy costs of the house.

When I bought my house there was a heating / cooling unit in the crawlspace. The heating was gas and the cooling was electric. I knew heating and cooling was a big bang item but, it was also costly. The unit in the crawl space was old and in efficient (pieced together over the years from the original unit put in the house in 1957) The crawlspace was not sealed or insulated so any humidity from the ground would end up in the house.

The new unit to be installed would have the following advantages/ upgrades:

  • The new unit was moved to the attic. This gets rid of humidity which wears on the unit more and adds new duct work.
  • The new unit was changed to an electric heat pump so the gas component can be taken away. This would enable me to get rid of one utility and all of the costs associated with it.
  • The crawlspace can be sealed easier with less stuff in it
  • The new unit would run more efficient then the old one
  • New duct work helps eliminate the hunt for leaks in the first few years
  • Having a new unit is cleaner than the older one an will be healthier for the family

The unit has been in since the beginning of the summer and the cost savings are about $200 per month on cooling. April-September that is a $1200 savings this year. The cooling portion of the unit cost about $3500 so in about 3 years it will pay for itself. The unit should last at least 10 years so the total gain should be $8400 on the cooling side.

The heating has yet to be determined but, even if the savings is half the cooling the yearly operating costs will be down. Of course much of this depends on what the weather is like and the costs of electricity.

This can also be tweeked by proper insulation and sealing air leaks in the house. One additional option that is often overlooked is not turning on the heating or the air conditioner when it isn’t needed. Keep the equipment off when you are not using it. Programmable thermostats can resolve this issue. They range from about $30-$250 depending on the ease of use. (The most expensive is the Nest which has all the bells and whistles; wifi connected, learning your routine, etc.) If used right this could save you an additional 20% on the space temperature control. This is about 10% of the total energy cost of a house.

The bottom line for me is the more I can cut down on operating costs the more money I have for other things in life.


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