Summertime in Las Vegas, NV, is always hot, so you expect your electricity bills to be high. However, you might not expect your electricity use to keep creeping upward, causing bigger bills every month. If you haven’t adjusted your thermostat down or made any other obvious changes, you might be wondering what’s causing these high cooling bills in your Las Vegas home. Read on to learn about 10 possible reasons why your cooling bills are so high and what you can do about each of them.
1. Dirty Air Filter
Dirty air filters are a top contributor to high cooling bills. A dirty air filter decreases the air conditioner’s energy efficiency by 5% to 15%. Check the filter each month. Pick a date that’s easy to remember. Replace the filter as soon as it’s visibly dirty or at least every three months.
2. Debris Covering Outdoor Unit
During the summertime, shrubs, trees and other vegetation rapidly grow. Storms, pollen, dirt and other debris can land on and build up around the outdoor unit. If the heat absorbed from your home’s air isn’t able to dissipate through the outdoor unit’s fins, your electricity bills will increase. Keep all vegetation cut back at least three feet from the outdoor unit. Turn the AC’s power off, and use your garden hose to rinse the housing once each month.
3. Buildup on Coils
Dirt and dust buildup on condenser and evaporator coils reduces the air conditioner’s ability to transfer heat from your home to the outdoor air and to release that heat. At Polar Air & Heating, Inc., our technicians clean these coils during a routine maintenance visit. It’s not a good idea to try to clean these coils on your own. If the coils get punctured, the refrigerant could leak out of the air conditioner. An annual spring tune-up and maintaining a clean air filter help keep the coils free of debris.
4. Dusty or Dirty Air Vents or Ducts
Dirty air vents and ducts impede the flow of cooled air from the air handler into your living spaces. Once each month, remove every vent cover. You may need a screwdriver for this. Use warm water with a few drops of dish soap to clean the vent covers. Wipe the covers dry with a microfiber cloth. Use your vacuum’s long hose to suction dust and debris out of the vent openings. Replace the cleaned vent covers over the openings. Every one to three years, arrange for professional duct cleaning. If your home includes furry pets or people with allergies or asthma, aim for annual air duct cleaning.
5. Failing Parts
Failing parts may cause your air conditioner to operate inefficiently. A failing compressor is a common cause of high cooling bills. The compressor is responsible for compressing the refrigerant in its warm vapor state into a cold liquid. The cold liquid is what’s able to absorb heat from your home. Signs of a failing compressor include low airflow and warm air blowing from the vents. Another part that commonly fails is the capacitor. This is an electrical part that delivers higher voltage at the start of a cooling cycle. Capacitors often make a buzzing noise when they’re about to fail. A failing motor may also lead to high cooling costs. Malfunctioning motors often make more noise during cooling cycles.
6. Low Refrigerant Level
Your air conditioner uses a chemical refrigerant to transfer heat out of your home. Refrigerant leaks are common problems. A low refrigerant level reduces the air conditioner’s capacity to transfer heat to the outdoors. This triggers the system to cycle more frequently. The startup phase of a cooling cycle draws a lot of electricity. The more often the air conditioner cycles, the higher your electricity bills will be. Only a certified HVAC technician should measure refrigerant levels. If there’s a leak, repairs must be made before the refrigerant is recharged. If your air conditioner is more than 10 years old, it might use an obsolete refrigerant called Freon. This refrigerant is no longer in production. If your old air conditioner has a leak, you may be better off replacing the unit with an Energy Star-rated new system.
7. Open Doors and Windows
If you’re going in and out of your home, the opening and closing of doors let a lot of outdoor heat into your house. Opening the doors also allows the cooled air to leak outside. Minimize trips outdoors. For example, if you’ve just gone grocery shopping, unload all the bags into your garage. Close the garage door, then open the door to your home. If you have children who go in and out to play, encourage them to take a water bottle outside and to use the facilities first. Open windows also let hot air into your home. During the day, close your home’s blinds or curtains. Consider investing in room-darkening blinds. They block the intense direct sunlight that heats your home during the day.
8. Use of Heat-generating Appliances
Heat-generating appliances make your air conditioner work harder. When possible, avoid cooking with your oven during the summertime. Microwaves and toaster ovens also contribute to heat buildup in your home. Consider eating chilled foods, using a slow cooker or grilling your food outdoors. When you need to cycle the dishwasher or clothes dryer, do so before sunrise or after sunset. Electricity rates are lower during these times, and your air conditioner won’t be cycling as much during the overnight hours. If you’re still using incandescent light bulbs, they could be adding to your home’s heat burden. Upgrade to LED light bulbs, which use less electricity and emit less heat.
9. Lack of Maintenance
Skipping your spring AC tune-up is a bad idea. The preventive maintenance includes essential tasks, such as lubricating moving parts, cleaning the condensate line and cleaning the fan blades. Routine maintenance also allows our NATE-certified technicians to identify parts with excessive wear and tear. These parts reduce system efficiency and contribute to higher utility bills. If you forget to schedule a tune-up in the springtime, you can still have this maintenance done during the summer months of the year.
10. Forgetting to Use Exhaust Fans
When you shower, the hot water generates extra humidity and heat within your home. If you forget to turn on the bathroom fan, you’re adding heat and moisture to your home’s air, and the air conditioner has to eliminate it. This can also happen when you’re cooking with your stove’s burners. Boiling water, sauteing or frying food all create heat and humidity that your air conditioner has to remove. When cooking, turn on the range hood’s fan. Clean the filter or vent cover every three months.
At Polar Air & Heating, Inc., we’re proud to offer cost-effective heating and air conditioning repair, replacement, installation, and maintenance services in Las Vegas and the surrounding areas. We also offer commercial HVAC, refrigeration, and warranty plans for business owners. To learn more or schedule any of our services in Las Vegas, call us at Polar Air & Heating, Inc. today.