An Update on This Money Saving Way to Run Your AC
Almost 10 years ago on "Rosie on the House," we started describing a new home improvement concept to our listeners. It's something that we call super-cooling. The basic idea is that homeowners can save money by cooling their homes at the right time of day during the summer to save money on electric bills.
To super-cool your home, you lower the temperature on your thermostat to as cool as you can stand (68 to 74 degrees) -- but only at times of day when your utility charges you cheaper rates. In this way, you cool everything in your house – the walls, furniture, rugs, dishes, clothes in the closet. Probably you will start to feel cooler than is comfortable and you might put on a sweater and have to use extra blankets in bed at night.
Then when the on-peak hours arrive, you change the temperature to the warmest possible level you can stand in your house in summer – maybe 78 or 79. But by then, your house is so cool, your air conditioner doesn't come back on for hours and hours.
Each year we have gotten letters and emails from dozens of listeners who tried the system and have saved hundreds of dollars each summer using the plan. If you're interested, then check out Super-Cooling Your Home and Get Ready to Super-Cool Your House This Summer to get the details of the plan.
We also want to credit Steve Koepp, a certified Rosie partner and owner of Advanced Home Systems in Phoenix, as the man who drafted this technique originally and has advised us repeatedly along the way.
But of course, there some drawbacks to super-cooling. We also get many questions from listeners who want to try the system along with answers:
1 | Do you need a programmable thermostat to do super-cooling?
Not necessarily, but it can make the job easier. Without one, you will have to keep changing the temperature settings manually throughout the day.
2 | Can I start cooling later?
My house gets so cold when I tried super-cooling that my wife can hardly stand it. So can I shorten the duration of the super-cooling by starting the cooling of the house an hour or two before the peak rate arrives? Certainly, you can do that, but as a result, you may not save as much as you could by doing it throughout the entire off-peak time.
3 | What about other electric appliances?
Maybe I'm not using the air conditioner during the peak price hours, but what if I use my oven or other electric appliances? That can be a problem if your utility company has a demand pricing policy. Under demand pricing, your power company charges a rate that's based on your most expensive hour per month. So, if you keep the AC off, but bake a cake in an electric oven, your on-peak rate could be much higher.
4 | Will this work in all parts of Arizona with any utility company?
Yes, if they offer cheaper rates at certain times of day, mostly applicable to homeowners below the Mogollon Rim.
5 | What do the utility companies think of this?
Haven't heard from them. Remember that when you super-cool, you are helping them by avoiding using power during the peak demand periods when they pay more for the energy that they supply to all of us.
6 | Can you practice super-cooling when you have a solar electric system in your house?
Homeowners with solar systems can do so and will be able to sell more power back to utilities.
We also admit that this system works best if your house is empty during the peak power time, which in APS, for example, is from noon to 7 p.m. If children and pets are home and are going in and out of the house, your savings will not be as great. If you have to work at home, your savings will not be as great.
- If you have a swimming pool, you also need to be sure that your pool pump only operates during the off-peak hours, as well as your electric water heater.
- The target is to get to the point where less than 15 percent of your power is purchased at on-peak rates! Some homeowners can get as low as 5 to 7 percent.
- You're getting close to maximizing your super-cooling if you can divide your total kilowatt hours into the total dollar amount of your bill and come up with a cost per kilowatt hour of less than 12 cents.
So resolve to check out the super-cooling tips. Then determine what works best for you and start saving this summer on your utility bills.
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