Tuesday, March 20 2012 16:00

Low and No-Cost Tips for Reducing Energy Costs This Summer

With temperatures getting warmer outside, there are many easy steps you can take to keep cool, reduce the amount of energy that you’re using and lower your utility bills. Here are a few low and no-cost suggestions!

1. Open Windows When the outside air is cooler than the inside and it’s not too humid outside, turn off the air conditioner and throw open the windows. Nothing is more satisfying than getting a breeze of fresh air after having your home closed up all day.

2. Turn On Ceiling Fans While a ceiling fan won’t make your room cooler, it will definitely make it feel cooler by speeding sweat evaporation -- and they cost far less to run than your air conditioner.

3. Install/Close Blinds Install white window shades or mini-blinds if you do not already have them. Mini-blinds can reduce solar heat gain by 40-50 percent. On hot summer days, the sun is your worst enemy. The last thing you want to do is have your air conditioner running full blast to offset the increased heat from the sunlight pouring in your windows. By closing the blinds, you’ll still let in enough light to see by, but you’ll reflect back the rest.

4. Close Curtains Close south and west-facing curtains during the day for any window that gets direct sunlight. Keep these windows closed too.

5. Clean/Change Filters Clean or change A/C filters every month during cooling season. Normal dust build-up can reduce air flow by 1 percent per week.

6. Adjust Thermostats Up a Degree or Two It’s recommended that you set your thermostat at 78 degrees during the summer if you have central air conditioning. It’s a pleasant temperature, but isn’t necessarily the cheapest setting. If you can handle it, raise your thermostat by one or two degrees and realize a savings of about six to seven percent for each degree above 78.

7. Install Programmable Thermostats It doesn’t make much sense to cool your home while you’re gone, but it’s hard to remember to tweak your thermostat every day before you leave for work. Program your thermostat to go up by five degrees about 30 minutes or so before you leave and have it come back to your “normal” temperature a half-hour before you return. For added savings, program it to also go up by two or three degrees through the night – you’re unlikely to notice the change in your sleep.

8. Close Unused Vents If you’re not going to be in a particular room very much, consider closing the vent in that room so you’re not cooling dead space. That will cause more air to come out of the other open vents, potentially allowing you to add some cooling to a room that wasn’t getting it otherwise. Note: It is not recommended to completely close the vents in a basement since the air conditioner helps remove humidity.

9. Run Furnace Fans Many thermostats will allow the fan to run without initiating the furnace or air conditioner. By turning on your furnace fan, you cause the air to be circulated throughout the house, balancing out any cold or hot spots so that the whole house feels more comfortable. An added benefit is that it will trap any potential allergens that have been introduced if you have opened your windows – just make sure to regularly check the furnace filter and replace it when it’s dark enough to block light passing through.

10. Turn Off Lights If you don’t need a light on, turn it off! All light bulbs generate heat as a byproduct of producing light (even though compact fluorescents run cooler than incandescent) and why would you want to add heat to the summer mix? What light is filtering in through your closed blinds should be sufficient to get you around the house during the day. When night falls, turn on only the lights you need only when you need them. Not only will you save electricity, but you’ll also do your air conditioner a favor.

11. Delay Cooking Any time you turn on the stove or oven while your air conditioner is running, you’re taking money out of your own pockets. During the summer, do what you can to avoid turning on the stove or oven and, if you must turn them on, do it in the late evening.

12. Leave Laundry Until Nighttime Like a big spinning oven, your clothes dryer puts out a decent amount of heat. Much of that heat will be vented outside, but some will still leak into your house. The later you wait to turn it on, the less it works against your air conditioner. Waiting to wash until you have full loads also reduces the number of loads. If you live somewhere that has time-based metering of electricity, try to wait until the lower evening rate kicks in. Of course, nothing beats line-drying in terms of electricity usage, but running your dryer at night is the next best option.

13. Unplug/Turn Off Unused Electronics Not only do electronic devices use electricity when they’re not in use, they also convert some of that power into heat. By unplugging everything you can and putting the rest on switchable surge protectors, you can potentially save yourself a lot of money and unnecessary heat. Use the power saver feature on computers and do not leave computers on overnight as they still draw a small amount of electricity and emit heat in sleep mode.

14. Turn Off the TV If you’re not really watching your television and just have it on for background noise, you can save a lot of money and heat by switching on a radio instead. As an added bonus, turning off the TV allows you to do other things, like go outside and enjoy the cool evening air first-hand instead of using any variety of cooling devices to bring that air to you!

15. Turn Off Dehumidifiers Try not to use a dehumidifier at the same time your air conditioner is operating. The dehumidifier will increase the cooling load and force the air conditioner to work harder.

16. Install an Attic Fan An attic fan gives you the combined benefits of moving air (like a ceiling fan) and pulling in the cooler air from outside. It’s an investment that can easily pay for itself in a couple of years.

17. Insulate Attics If the attic isn’t already insulated or is under-insulated, insulate it NOW. Upgrading from 3 inches to 12 inches can cut cooling costs by 10 percent.

18. Use the Lowest Level of Your Home If you have a basement, it’s usually at least 10 degrees cooler than on the first floor of a home. And, likewise, it’s naturally warmer on the second floor than the first. Use the lowest level of your home as much as you can during warm weather months.

19. Utility Provider Incentives Also contact your utility provider or visit their website for possible, ideas, rebates and incentives.

Last modified on Tuesday, March 20 2012 18:25