Three Air Conditioners That Can Permanently Lower Your Utility Bills

Even during times of economic hardship, utility bills seem to continually rise. The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) estimates that air conditioning costs can make up 43 percent or more of your summer utility bills. However, by investing in an energy-efficient air conditioning system, you can minimize this figure dramatically. Read on to learn more about three different types of air conditioning systems that can provide ongoing savings for the life of the system by reducing your electricity usage.

#1 -- Geothermal system

A geothermal heating and cooling system doesn't rely on condensation, like most window and central air conditioning units, but instead uses the earth itself to heat and cool your home. To install a geothermal system, contractors will bury a series of pipes at various depths around your home. Some pipes are designed to cool your home, while others are designed to warm it. (Generally, the "warm" pipes will be buried nearer the ground's surface, but below the frost line, while the "cool" pipes will be buried much deeper.)

If you've ever been in a cave during the hot summer months, you probably noticed the dramatic difference in temperature between the cave's entrance and interior. Most caves remain around 55 to 60 degrees year-round in temperate areas. This principle holds true for other underground areas as well. For this reason, pipes buried at a certain depth are able to cool warm air and water and use this to provide air conditioning for your home. (In the winter, the pipes will be used to warm air and water and provide heat for your home.)

Geothermal heat systems can be expensive to install -- about $20,000 to $25,000 for a 2,500 square foot home -- but will reduce your heating and cooling bills by 40 to 60 percent over the life of the system. If your electricity bills average $300 per month year round, saving an average of 50 percent means that a $20,000 system will pay for itself in about 11 years. In addition, there are federal energy efficiency tax credits available to help save you even more money.

#2 -- Remote controlled system

Nearly any energy efficient air conditioning system can be made even more efficient by the installation of a remote control system. Unlike a television remote control, an air conditioner remote control can be operated by your smartphone or tablet, even when you are miles from home. By increasing your home's temperature while you're not there, you can help reduce your total electricity usage substantially.

#3 -- Portable air conditioning unit

If you live in a small home, or spend most of your time in only a few rooms, a portable unit may be the best way to reduce your cooling costs. These units are generally standalone and often look like a large fan. Many have wheels so that they can easily follow you from room to room. These air conditioners operate in a similar manner as window air conditioning units -- however, instead of taking warm air and expelling it through an exhaust vented to the outside, these air conditioning units have an exhaust hose that is vented through a door or window. If you don't like the idea of looking at an unsightly exhaust hose, there are some models available that can vent directly into a wall or even a ceiling.

Depending on the type of portable unit you purchase, you may need to occasionally empty the condensate reservoir. This is where the moisture the air conditioner removes from the hot air is routed. Other types of units vent this condensate through the exhaust hose or use a "gravity drain."

Any of the above units can save you money -- the only questions are how much money you'd like to spend up front, and how large your home is. Smaller homes can do very well with a portable unit, while larger homes can easily handle a geothermal or programmable unit.