FW-105 -- The Summer Blues: Cutting Aircon Costs

* * * * * * * * F R U G A L W A T C H * * * * * * * *
A monthly roundup of how to be frugal in the world's most
expensive country to live (unless you read this!), written
and compiled by Wendy J. Imura.

Featuring our Real Estate Special, Web 2.0 Marketing and more!

August 17, 2007 Issue No. 105

***** The Summer Blues: Cutting Aircon Costs ****

Dear Frugalites,

Okay. I'll get right to the point. It's hot. Darn hot. And
expensive. If you're a slightly detail-oriented (i.e. anal)
frugalite like me, you already know from tracking your monthly
electricity expenditures that the seasonal peaks typically come
in January/February and July/August. Why? These are the peak
heating and air conditioning months. We have three typical
wall-unit air conditioner/heaters (aircon) to heat/cool our 3LDK
flat, and our bills range from a low of Y6000-Y7000 during spring
and fall to over Y16,000 (!) in the summer/winter months.
I could certainly do a lot better at cutting these costs, but as
you've probably guessed by now, I'm not really into guerilla
frugal tactics personally. Nonetheless, there are a few simple
yet effective steps you can take to reduce your summer aircon

First of all, did you know that aircon alone account for over
one-forth of all household electricity costs in Japan? Yep. It's
startling but true, according to Japanese frugal guru Yuki Wada.

The simplest way to cut aircon costs is to adjust your
temperature settings. Most typical aircon units in Japan have a
small remote control that can be used to change the settings.
Typically, the temperature settings resemble little "up or down"
arrows. Wada says that simply upping the temperature setting on
your unit by one degree can cut electric costs by 10%! The ideal
summer temperature setting for aircon is 28 C. Apparently, any
difference in indoor vs. outdoor temperatures of greater than
seven degrees Celcius can cause discomfort,
chills, and even headaches - in addition to costing more money!
So, first things first - set your AC to 28C!

The second variable to look at is the direction and strength of
airflow. If you can't find these settings (labeled with the
characters for "wind direction" and "wind amount" in Japanese)
on your remote, check the inside panel. Wada recommends pointing
the air upward, as air flowing downward tends not to circulate.
Pressing the direction button, you'll notice the little vents on
the aircon unit change direction - put them at the top angle. For
airflow strength, she recommends the automatic setting (jido
unten) which automatically adjusts airflow based on temperature.
Using a fan in addition to the AC (fans are very low-cost items -
only Y100-Y150 in electricity usage for one month's use at
5-6 hours/day) is also a good way to keep the air flowing.

There are some other, simple measures you can take as well. One
is using curtains or blinds to limit the heat that can enter a
room. Another is making sure the aircon's external unit (that big
hulking machine located on your balcony or in your yard) is not
exposed to direct sunlight. An exposed unit can make it difficult
for the aircon to exchange heat effectively, wasting electricity.
While directly putting a cover on the unit is inadvisable, Wada
does recommend ensuring that the external unit gets proper shade.

An additional point is making sure the innards of your aircon are
clean. Wada recommends cleaning the aircon filter at least once
very two weeks. You can typically remove the filter by popping
open the vented front of the aircon. After removing it, softly
brushing the eyes of the filter with a disposable toothbrush
while using the vacuum (hose) to suck up the dirt is one
effective method (see here for a picture:

Finally, you can have the inside of your aircon professionally
cleaned. Typically, these services are rather costly (from
Y10,000 per unit). Duskin is one reliable provider.
Recommendations vary, but cleaning every two to three years is a
good bet. After several years of use, the aircon traps dirt,
allergens, dust, and mold, both reducing its cooling capacity and
creating "dirty air" forced out through the vents.
If you've never had your aicon cleaned and find yourself
complaining of allergies or a sore throat, you might need to look
into this. Note that appointments are typically necessary for
this service.
(Duskin Aircon Cleaning:

If none of these measures help cut your aircon bill, then you
might need to rethink the aircon itself. New models are twice as
energy efficient as those from a decade ago, and the extra
Y30,000-Y40,000 required to purchase a low-price model might
actually save you money over the long run. Of course, the
simplest way to cut aircon usage is... not use it at all.
"When in doubt, turn it off."

That's all, Frugalites! Have a great summer!

Frugally yours,
Wendy J. Imura

PS: This article borrowed heavily from the ever-frugal Yuki
Wada's AllAbout.co.jp "Setsuyaku & Yarikuri" site's "Aircon
Setsuden No Kotsu!"
(Tips on Cutting Aircon Electricity Costs) from July 14, 2003.

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Written by: Wendy J. Imura (frugalwatch@japaninc.com)
Edited by: JI

Copyright 2007 Japan Inc. Communications

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International Cricket Competition 15-17 September 2007

This is your invitation to three days of fun at an
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