Hot Weather Energy-Saving Tips
One of us just received his monthly utility bill for gas and electricity. The bill was accompanied by a letter from the utility company with a challenge to save energy during the peak cooling season when energy use is at its highest and supplies are limited.
The offer was simple; reduce household energy consumption by 20 percent during a four month period (the hottest months of the year) as compared to the same period the previous year and the utility company will issue a 20 percent credit on the amount paid during the four months in question. It doesn’t take a mathematician to deduce that the combination equals an overall savings of nearly 40 percent on one’s utility bill!
We think that this is an excellent idea — especially considering the skyrocketing cost of energy along with the increased demand and resulting blackouts that invariably occur each and every summer. What’s best is that achieving a 20 percent energy savings doesn’t need to be like pulling teeth and doesn’t need to cost a lot of money or time. It has more to do with changing a few energy-wasting habits than any other single factor. And where costs are involved – such as having your cooling system checked annually by a professional—the costs can be easily offset by a system that will operate more efficiently and that will last longer.
According to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), heating and cooling your home uses more energy and drains more energy dollars than any other system in your home. Typically, 44% of your utility bill goes for heating and cooling. That’s a big chunk of your energy bill. That’s the bad news. The good news is that you can do something about it by implementing some of the following energy-saving tips.
If you don’t have a programmable thermostat, install one. They are more affordable and user-friendly than ever. A programmable thermostat can be set to vary the temperature of your home according to your schedule. For example, the thermostat can be set to keep your home cooler in the morning before going to work and in the evening when you return home. During the rest of the day the temperature is set higher when no one is at home. Many thermostats have multiple day programs that take into consideration the weekend when you may spend most of the day at home.
Set your thermostat to 78 degrees Fahrenheit when you’re home and 85 degrees Fahrenheit when you’re away four or more hours. Setting it lower will keep the cooling system running during the peak demand period and setting it much higher than 85 can cause the system to work too hard — making it impossible to cool down your home in the evening.
Lighting can have a huge impact on energy consumption – both from the amount of energy that it consumes and the amount of heat that it creates, which necessitates increased cooling. Increasing your lighting efficiency is one of the fastest ways to decrease your energy bills. According to the DOE, if you replace 25% of your lights in high-use areas with fluorescents, you can save about 50% of your lighting energy bill.
Use linear fluorescent and energy-efficient compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) in fixtures throughout your home to provide high-quality and high-efficiency lighting. Fluorescent lamps are much more efficient than incandescent bulbs and last 6 to 10 times longer. Although fluorescent and compact fluorescent lamps are more expensive than incandescent bulbs, they pay for themselves by saving energy over their lifetime. Look for the ENERGY STAR® label when purchasing these products. Motion detectors, dimmer switches and times at interior and exterior lighting can also do lots to chisel away at the cost of your utility bill. They are both inexpensive and easy to install.
One of the most widely used statements by our parents around our home growing up was; “turn off the lights.” As parents, these same four words are often uttered in our homes along with the accompanying question; “do you think that money grows on trees?”
Well, whether energy-efficient or not, turning off lighting will use less energy, produce less heat, require less cooling AND lower your utility bill. While you’re at it, consider shutting down home office equipment and heat-producing computer monitors when not in use.
According to the DOE appliances account for about 20% of your household’s energy consumption, with refrigerators and clothes dryers at the top of the consumption list. Do you have an old gas guzzling energy wasting refrigerator? A new refrigerator with an ENERGY STAR® label will save you between $35 and $70 a year compared to the models designed 15 years ago. This adds up to between $525 and $1,050 during the average 15-year life of the unit. And are you a real energy hog with a second refrigerator? If you want to get your utility costs down you’ll unplug it – pronto!
Use appliances after 7:00 pm. Wash and dry clothing and run the dishwasher after this “energy bewitching hour” and you’ll watch your utility bill shrink like a pair of cotton jeans washed in hot water. Which leads us to yet another energy saving tip – when possible wash clothing in cold water. When shopping for a new washer, consider a front load machine, which are typically more energy and water efficient.
If you have a swimming pool or spa, operate the filter pump and automatic cleaner during off-peak hours – peak hours are generally from noon to 6:00 pm. Also consider investing in a solar cover that will passively warm the water and protect the pool or spa from debris, which means you may be able to throttle back on the filter pump and cleaner.
Finally, irrigating your landscaping during off-peak hours can save energy too! How you ask? If your irrigation system is supplied by a well or if you have a booster pump to increase water pressure, both of these draw energy the use for which should be deferred to before noon or after 6:00 pm.
Even if your local utility company may not offer a bonus for saving energy during the hot months of the year, we encourage you to consider fattening your pocketbook with the money you’ll save by implementing some of these energy-saving tips. Who knows, you may end up saving enough money to take that special summer vacation you’ve always wanted. Plus while you’re away from home you’ll be using still less energy that will enough to cover the cost of those skyrocketing theme park tickets!
For more home improvement tips and information search our website or call our listener line any time at 1-800-737-2474! All you need to do is leave your name, telephone number and your question.