arianne's tips: is time for a new air conditioner?

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It’s air conditioner season (finally!). Which means that it’s time to answer the same question that consumers wonder every year: How do you know if your trusty air conditioner is a keeper, or an energy guzzler that should be replaced?

Before you even try to answer this question, give your AC a quick tune-up: Make sure that it’s tilted slightly backward and downward, so that it drains correctly. Then take out the filter, and clean it in the kitchen sink. While it’s out, take your vacuum extension hose, and vigorously vacuum the inside of the air conditioner, where the filter usually sits. Clogged, dirty and gurgling air conditioners waste electricity, so these steps will save you on your electricity bills. Click through to the next page to learn how to decide if you need a new air conditioner.

Now we can address the question at hand. The easy answer is to keep a running list of the days and hours you use your air conditioner. When the next electricity bill arrives, figure out how many days you used the air conditioner that month, and calculate how much you’re paying per day on your air conditioner based on comparisons to the previous month’s bill.

As a rule of thumb, any air conditioner electricity charges of more than roughly $3 per day for spaces smaller than 600 sq. ft. are excessive; if you’re paying more than $2/day, you will save money with an energy-saver model. In my apartment, $1.50/day turns my bedroom into an ice box.

If you do decide to replace, you will probably find yourself in the air conditioner aisle. I find the place particularly disorienting. Have no fear! Next week I’ll offer tips on how to buy the air conditioner that will keep you cool and save you money. Stay tuned.

For more helpful tips from Arianne, visit her website, ariannecohen.com or pick up a copy of her book, Help! It’s Broken: A Fix-It Bible For the Repair-Impaired from Amazon.


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