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Money-Saving Tips for Buying a New Air Conditioner

By: Rachel Rice Staff Reporter

Jun 3, 2011

The scorching weather over Memorial Day has many Chicagoans clamoring for air conditioning to get them through the hot summer months. Here's how to get the most efficient cooling system for the least amount of money:

Make sure that your air- conditioning unit has the correct BTU for the size of your house. "Getting an A/C unit with too little BTU obviously isn't going to be efficient enough to keep your home cool," said Paul Soucek, a sales associate for Abt Electronics and Appliance store in north suburban Glenview. Many homeowners assume that bigger is better, but "getting too high of a BTU would not remove the humidity from your house," he said.

That could contribute to mold problems.

To calculate the optimal BTU level for your home, you need to know the square footage of the room you are trying to cool. Additionally, shaded north-facing rooms will take less power to keep cool, while kitchens will take more power. For a detailed worksheet to determine what BTU is right for your home, go to Consumer Report's website.

If you have an A/C unit that's very old, buying a new one may save you a few bucks on your energy bill. "Buying an A/C unit that has an Energy Star rating will save you an average of 10 percent on your energy bill," said Bruce Callahan of ComEd.

Finally, one of the easiest ways to save money on your energy bill is to keep your A/C unit clean. "Clean the filter. No one ever does, but the instruction manuals tell you to do it every month, especially during the summer when you're using it a lot," Consumer Search editor-in-chief Christine Frietchen said. "It's similar to a vacuum cleaner — the dirtier it is, the harder it has to work."

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