What if there was a way to save money on electricity in Singapore without switching the air conditioner off?
Aircon bills can get very costly in Singapore's hot and humid weather, but boy is it tough to get through the day (or night!) without your air conditioning switched on. Here's a handy guide on how to save money by choosing the right air con. But what if we tell you that you can lower your aircon bills without turning the AC unit off? Yes, of course you can.
1. Minimise direct sources of sunlight
If the sun is coming directly through the windows, your air conditioner will be working overtime to cool the house. A simple way to use less power is just to block the sources of sunlight--try drawing heavy curtains across windows--but sometimes you need the light. In those cases, try to minimise the sunlight instead.
Thin drapes are one way to do this, as is the use of two sheets of newspaper (assuming you don’t mind that “under renovation” look). Some people go for a compromise, such as clustering large leafy plants near direct sources of sunlight--this diminishes the light while jazzing up the place a bit.
If you want a permanent solution, you can also tint the windows.
2. Back up your AC with a hand fan for first few minutes
Do you have one of those traditional Chinese fans? Try this: turn up the air conditioner by two degrees, and then fan yourself for the next five minutes or so.
By the time you stop, you’ll be feeling nice and cool all the way. A lot of the time, air conditioning doesn’t feel as cool as it should because of poor air circulation. If you’ve been to a cold country, for example, you may know how nice and tolerable seven degrees celsius can feel... until the wind blows in your face.
It’s the same deal: amplify your air conditioning by getting the wind going. In a pinch, you can also use sheafs of A4 paper or old magazines as makeshift fans.
3. Clean air conditioning vents regularly
The air conditioning vent (the part where the air blows out) gets dirty and clogs up very quickly. This can drive up your power bill, since a clogged vent means it takes more energy for your air conditioner to cool the room.
In the long run, leaving the vent clogged can also damage the air conditioning unit, and ruin the delicate filters inside it. Replacements and a repairman can run up costs as high as S$300, especially if it is a central air conditioning unit.
So avoid being lazy and keep those vents clean. It just takes 15 minutes, a stepladder, and some running water to get it done.
4. Use the timer or thermostat
If you're going to sleep with the air conditioner on, learn to set the timer or thermostat. Think about it: assuming you sleep for seven hours, that’s around 210 hours of power usage every month. Depending on the power consumption of your air conditioner, that could be a savings of upward of S$20 a month.
Setting the timer or thermostat is also better for the environment, and saves money in the long run--if you make a habit of keeping your air conditioner on all night, it is likely to break down in short order.
5. Keep a maintenance service record
A worn out air conditioner will usually drain more power than a well maintained one. Factors like coolant leaks, stuck vents, and cracks in the casing can all cause your air conditioning to work overtime. And of course, poor maintenance can eventually lead to a total breakdown, and we know these things aren’t cheap to replace.
So keep a record of when your air conditioning unit was last serviced, and call in a technician for a general cleaning once a year. You might also want to check if the manufacturer or your property manager offers special rates for these services.
6. When replacing or buying an air conditioner, opt for a reputable brand
It might be tempting to save by getting a cheap, obscure brand of air conditioner, or to forego any warranties. Our suggestion is that you don’t.
You may end up spending more on a good brand-name unit, but a lousy one will cost you more if you need to wholly replace the unit. Also, it's not cheap to call in a technician repeatedly (and you will be doing that if you go cheap).
Read our guide on how to choose an air conditioner in Singapore so you don't waste money when you need a new one.
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By Ryan Ong
Ryan has been writing about finance for the last 10 years. He also has his fingers in a lot of other pies, having written for publications such as Men's Health, Her World, Esquire, and Yahoo! Finance.