How to Save Money on Cooling Costs While Staying Cool This Summer

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Reduce the cost of cooling with these tips for reducing air-conditioner costs as well as ways to stay cool without air-conditioning.

Reduce the cost of cooling your home
Reduce Cooling Costs. Image by ktsdesign @

As we saw in last week’s post on electricity savings, the largest area of energy consumption in the average Australian household is heating and cooling the home.

Because we’re coming into summer, I’m going to focus today on cooling.

Cooling your house can account for up to 40% of your electricity bill…if you have to air-condition.

If you really want to make a dent in your electricity costs, it goes without saying that the NUMBER ONE way to reduce your cooling costs is to eliminate or reduce air-conditioning.

Here are some numbers from the Your Power QLD website that show just how big a difference ditching the air-con can make:

Cooling System estimated running costs

(You can check out their website here for information on how they calculated these running costs).

We live in Queensland. It gets hot. For the first 10 years, we got by with ceiling fans only. We’ve had air conditioning in our lounge room for the last three summers and it’s very nice, I won’t lie. But we try to only use it when it’s really hot.

Even with four fans going all the time, by the above estimates it still only costs us $56 per summer. That’s a huge saving over air-conditioning.

But wait, you say, I don’t want to get rid of my air-con!!

I hear you!

Air con is a blessing when it’s so hot. And heat waves can be deadly, so air conditioning isn’t just a luxury, it can be a lifesaver!

Then the answer to cutting costs drastically is to use it as little as possible. Use it on the hottest days or just for an hour or two and use fans at other times.

A key step is to not run your air-conditioners when you’re not at home. Not only is cooling an empty house a huge waste of money, but it’s also a huge waste of resources and produces unnecessary greenhouse gas emissions.

I’m sure it keeps the cockroaches and house spiders comfortable, but otherwise, you may as well be throwing money straight in the bin.

But if the thought of coming home to a hot house is just unbearable, then a programmable thermostat or timer will allow you to set the air conditioner to come on just before you come home.

And don’t forget to set the temperature at a comfortable 24°C – 27°C. Setting the temperature lower doesn’t actually cool a room down any quicker, but it does make the air conditioner overshoot, costing (wasting) you money.

Keeping cool without an air-conditioner

Ceiling fans are awesome! They are not only inexpensive to run, but they are also fairly cheap to purchase and install. Steer clear of the cheap-o hardware store ones though; in our experience the motor blows after a season or two and the whole thing needs to be replaced. Buying directly from the electrician can save money over buying a quality fan from a lighting store (and it included installation!).

TIP: Fans don’t cool a room down, they cool you down by creating a breeze. So there’s no point leaving them on when you leave a room. Just like the lights, save money by turning the fans off whenever you leave a room.

While portable fans aren’t quite as effective, they are good alternatives where it’s not possible to install ceiling fans: in rentals or in rooms like the kitchen.

If you live in a dry climate, evaporative coolers are effective and also inexpensive to purchase and run.

Use solar passive techniques to reduce the need for electric cooling. For instance, close blinds or curtains (or cover the windows with heavy blankets) and close windows during the hottest part of the day to keep out the sun and hot wind. Open them up in the afternoon and evening to cross ventilate your home let cool air in. See article link below and checklist for other solar passive ideas.

Reduce internal heat gain by switching off lighting, electronics and appliances; things like the computer, TV and dryer. The oven is another big source of internal heat gain so use the BBQ outside or the slow cooker or stove top instead.

Insulation is a sure way to reduce cooling costs. It makes your home more comfortable without air-conditioning, and it makes your air-conditioning more efficient.

Wear light clothing and use a cool pack on the back of your neck. A damp t-shirt and very short cold shower can also do wonders for cooling you down. When I was pregnant through summer, I would sit in a shallow bath and read to cool down.

Soak your feet in water. Add a few drops of peppermint for a further cooling effect.

For more tips on keeping cool see:

a printable checklist to reduce cooling costs

To act as a reminder, I’ve put ways to keep cool without the air-con on a printable checklist. Stick it to the fridge and try these ideas to cool down, before turning on the air-conditioning.

If you use air-conditioning, have a look at this checklist to make sure you are using it as efficiently as possible and making the most savings.

The checklist also includes a list of home improvements (some inexpensive, others an investment) that will reduce your cooling costs. Make the changes that are relevant to your circumstances for a more comfortable house during the summer months.

You can download the checklist here.

How do you stay cool during the summer months?

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  1. I’ve lived in Queensland for nearly four years now, in four different houses, and they have all been different in terms of temperature. Where I am now is a concrete granny flat under a house and it stays so cool that I’ve only had the ceiling fan on a couple of times (although I froze in winter). The last place I was in was a top-floor brick apartment and it got very very hot, but still had no aircon. We thought about getting an evaporative cooler, but never got around to it.