Lower Your Cooling Costs: Five Surefire Strategies

Key Points
  • Air conditioning is a significant operating expense during the hot summer months.
  • Control strategies, such as thermostat adjustments and variable frequency drives, can significantly reduce your energy costs.
  • Find additional PG&E tips to save on your cooling costs here.
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Air conditioning is a significant, but necessary operating expense during the hot summer months. While occupant comfort is important, air conditioning should not be treated as just another cost of doing business. The five control strategies that follow will help you reduce your summer energy bills while improving overall cooling system performance.

  1. Programmable thermostats. Adjusting building temperatures to suit your operating hours or occupancy schedule is the simplest and most cost-effective method for controlling cooling costs. Programmable thermostats automate the process, adding convenience and help to optimize savings. Models range in price from $50 to $200, depending on the desired features; most models include manual overrides to ensure comfort for late night workers.
  2. Multiple zones. By dividing your facility up into multiple space conditioning zones, your system can deliver more efficient cooling by eliminating inaccuracies from a central sensor point. In addition, building occupants in different areas can adjust the temperature to meet their actual needs. If your facility has many rooms or multiple floors, multiple zones can reduce your energy costs significantly.
  3. Preventive maintenance. While an annual inspection and cleaning of your cooling system is important at the beginning of the season, regular maintenance is necessary to keep it operating efficiently all summer long. Adjust temperature control settings to match changing needs and occupancy schedules. Make sure filters are changed regularly and inspect the cooling system for leaks, unusual noises and loose belts.
  4. Variable frequency drives (VFDs). The motors that operate the fans and pumps in your cooling system typically operate at a constant speed, while your building cooling load varies because of weather, occupancy schedules and other factors. Making fans and pumps work harder than necessary can be a substantial waste of energy. VFDs save energy and increase system performance by matching motor speeds to your actual cooling demand.
  5. Air economizers. An economizer can help reduce your cooling costs by bringing in the right amount of outside air. An economizer is comprised of a sensor, as well as a damper and ductwork connected to the outside air. When the outside air is cool enough—generally between 55°F and 60°F depending on the humidity—the damper is opened and outside air is brought in to provide cooling. When the economizer sensors indicate that the outside air is not appropriate for cooling, the damper is closed. Economizers are most effective in moderate climates.

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