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If you operate and maintain your cooling system wisely, you can reduce your cooling costs and still be comfortable. The best approach will depend on whether you have an air conditioner or evaporative cooler.
Keep them closed when the system is operating to avoid wasting energy.
It is far cheaper to turn the air conditioner off while you are out or overnight while sleeping, and on again when you return or wake up in the morning. A fan will generally keep you comfortable during warmer nights and will cost far less to run. Use the economy setting if your system has one – this setting reduces energy use by maintaining moderate rather than cold temperatures.
At the hottest times of year, a timer allows you to turn your air conditioner on and off automatically, say 20–30 minutes before rising in the morning or getting home in the evening. For standard plug in air conditioners you can purchase a simple timer from your local hardware store to do the same job.
Don't forget to turn the entire system off completely when you go away on a holiday.
If the compressor unit (the part located outside) is exposed to full sun during the day, shade it with an awning, shade mesh or a similar structure. Be careful not to restrict air movement around the unit by keeping curtains and furniture clear of outlets.
Insulating your home can save you up to 45% on your energy bills. Install insulation in your ceiling, walls and floors to create a sealed envelope which acts like a thermos in winter and an esky in summer.
Prevent loss of cool air generated by your cooling system by sealing gaps around doors and windows to draught-proof your home.
Use portable and ceiling fans wherever possible – they are much cheaper to run than air conditioners and can also be used in conjunction with your air conditioner to circulate cool air.
Ensure that doors and windows are kept open in rooms being cooled, and that the opening is large enough to allow the air to flow freely outside. Having insufficient openings will reduce the cooling effectiveness of the unit and may put too much back pressure on the fan.
Reduce heat gain by opening windows and doors on the opposite side of the house to the hot prevailing winds where possible.
If your unit has a timer, consider using it to switch the system off when cooling is not required, such as in the early hours of the morning.
On days of high humidity, turn off the water supply to the cooler and run the fan only. This can be quite effective on still, humid evenings when the outside air has cooled down.
Ducted evaporative cooling outlets can be a significant source of heat loss in winter. Special covers are available which can be fitted over the outlets in winter to reduce heat loss through evaporative cooling outlets.
Evaporative coolers should be regularly serviced and maintained in accordance with manufacturer's instructions to keep them operating effectively.
Ceiling or wall-mounted fans and portable electric fans can cost less than two cents per hour to run and can be inexpensive to purchase.
Although fans do not reduce the air temperature, when used in conjunction with your air conditioner or evaporative cooler they can reduce the need to use your cooling system.