Air conditioning units

Unlike houses in other parts of the country, virtually every home in Phoenix features built-in air conditioning. People couldn’t survive the summer without it. OK, historically that isn’t true, but who would even want to try these days?

Unfortunately, continually running your home AC can cost hundreds or thousands of dollars a month. It takes a lot of energy to battle 115-degree outside temperatures. Many new homeowners and house hunters forget to factor this into their yearly expenses.

To help out, offers a nice collection of tips for reducing air-conditioning costs. For example, a yearly AC checkup and cleaning should also be a part of every homeowners spring cleaning routine.

If you don’t, you lose efficiency through dirty coils. Neglect could even cause your AC to stop working. That’s not something you want when the world outside doubles as an oven.

Likewise, you should install a programmable thermostat. This allows you to use less cooling energy when you aren’t home. Improving your home’s insulation, especially for an older home, should also be a no-brainer.

Of course, we do take exception to the suggestion that you set the thermostat for “15 degrees cooler than the outside temperature.” That works in places where the high stays under 100. However, in Phoenix, you could face 100-degree temperatures inside your home.

Definitely keep your home below 85 degrees or you risk heat-related health problems. To save on energy, fans are your friend. They add to the cooling effect and draw much less electricity than your AC.

There’s also some dispute about’s advice to install a high-efficiency air filter. According to the website of famed handyman Bob Vila, a high-efficiency filter can actually cause your AC to work harder and draw more energy. When you get your unit checked, talk to the AC company and see what they recommend for your unit.

However, Bob Vila does offer some other good tips. For example, set your ceiling fans to counter-clockwise so they pull cool air up from the ground rather than hit you with hot air from the ceiling.

You should also close any shades, blinds and curtains to keep out the sunlight. We like to add blackout shades on sun-facing windows. You can find these at any home supply store, and they range from fabric and vinyl types to temporary $7 paper models.

If you’re in the market for a home, look for trees and bushes near the house. These can block away daytime sun. Or you can plant your own sun-blocking foliage.

Finally, minimize heat-producing activities during peak heat hours, which around here is actually most of June and July. Save oven and dryer use for night time, or after September.