Americans spend roughly $11 billion a year to power their air conditioners, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. If you're not exactly comfortable with your current energy bill, you should know that lowering your home cooling costs may be easier than you think.

Understanding how your home loses cooling is the first step in boosting the efficiency of your home HVAC system. What can you do to make your AC system run smoothly while lowering your cooling costs? Take a look at these easy ways to increase energy efficiency during the warm weather.

Replace Your AC

Of course, replacing your AC will cost you money now. However, a new system may end up saving you more in the long run. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, switching from an older system to a new high-efficiency air conditioner can lower your home's energy usage by as much as 20 to 50 percent. This energy savings can dramatically lower the overall cost of your home cooling bills.

Before choosing a new model, talk to an HVAC professional and discuss which system will work best in your home. The size of your indoor space and the location of the air conditioner play important roles in how efficiently your AC will work.

For example, an air conditioning unit that is too small for your home's area will have to work much harder to cool it. This uses extra energy and will only end up costing you more. However, a system that matches the size of your home can function efficiently without having to overwork.

When choosing a new air conditioner, look for the SEER (seasonal energy efficiency ratio) rating. The higher the SEER rating, the greater the system's energy efficiency.

Insulate Your Home

You know that insulation keeps your home warm when the weather gets chilly, but what about keeping it cool? The same rules apply for AC insulation as they do for heating. Cracks in window frames, gaps under entry doors and uninsulated attics and basements can cause your home to lose cooling.

Inspect your home and look for any places where air can get in and out. Making sure that your home is well-insulated is an easy fix to keep your energy bills low. To ensure that cool air stays inside your home, add weather-stripping around windows, lower entry door thresholds and hire a professional to put insulation in your basement and attic walls.

Clean Your Air Ducts

Along with your air conditioner itself, the ductwork plays a major part in the efficiency of your system's ability to cool your house. Make sure that your air ducts are clear and free of blockages.

Even though regular dust and debris won't completely clog your air ducts, they can narrow them enough to make it difficult for the system to push air through. The less space there is for the air to flow, the harder your air conditioner needs to work. This increases your overall energy usage and raises your cooling bills.

Keep in mind, regular dirt and debris aren't the only things that can clog your ducts. A rodent or insect infestation can also cause problems that decrease your AC's energy efficiency. A thorough cleaning by a professional can eliminate these issues and help your air conditioner work without overusing energy.

If your ducts are clear, but you are still experiencing energy loss, then check for gaps, cracks or holes. Leaks in the ductwork can also force your system to work harder than it needs to.

Do you need help lowering your cooling bills with a new AC system? The HVAC professionals at Knight Heating & Air Conditioning can help keep your home cool, comfortable and energy efficient.