High summer temperatures, like those we’re experiencing with the current heat wave, usually translate to high energy bills. There are ways to stay cool and comfortable this summer, however, while also saving money.
Try adopting some or all of the nine tips below from NEA Member Benefits Partner California Casualty. They’re good for your budget, the planet, and local power grids.
Plant trees for shade
This won’t help with today’s heat, but for future summers, consider that shady trees around your home can greatly reduce a “greenhouse effect.” They limit the direct sunlight coming in through windows and beating down on the roof. Also, having shade over your air conditioning unit can increase its energy efficiency.
Some best practices: set your thermostat as high as comfortably possible (78 degrees is recommended) and raise it a bit when you’re away. Better yet, install a programmable thermostat for even more time- and energy-efficiency.
Daytime lights give off heat, which accumulates over the day. Incandescent lights are the least efficient, with 90 percent of their energy given off as heat. Try gradually switching to more efficient lighting, and consider lighting controls such as sensors and timers. In the meantime, turning off lights whenever leaving a room is always a good rule of thumb.
Check your filters
Clean or replace air conditioning filters at least once per month. This is one of the quickest ways to lower your energy bill, as a clean AC system uses less energy and has a longer life span.
Drawing your windows’ shades, blinds, or curtains keeps direct sunlight—a concentrated heat source—out. Make it a habit to do this when you’re out of the house. Even when you’re home, drawing the shades in rooms that stay empty or aren’t used often will make a difference.
Whether ceiling, table, floor, or wall-mounted, fans create a wind chill effect that can lower the “real feel” of air temps by 6-7 degrees. No need to leave them on in empty rooms though, as fans cool people, not the air itself.
Seal those leaks
They’re invisible but can wreak havoc on your energy bill. Check throughout your home for gaps and leaks and repair them with caulking or weather stripping to keep cool air from escaping and hot air from entering. While you’re at it, check your ducts—according to the U.S. Department of Energy, air loss through ducts accounts for about 30 percent of an AC unit’s energy consumption.
Maintain your AC
Besides changing the filters, have a professional do regular maintenance annually, which can more than pay for itself in long-term energy savings.
Be mindful of appliances
Running your appliances (oven, dryer, stove, dishwasher) can build up a lot of heat in the house and send your AC into overdrive. Try to stagger appliance use and see which you can run at night. If you’re due to replace any of them, check out Energy Star-qualified products. Consider air-drying clothes and dishes, and cook on the grill rather than on the stove to reduce in-home heat.
With a few simple hacks and a new habit or two, you can be well on your way to staying cool while saving some cash this summer.