Make Sure Your Home Can Beat the Heat
Energy use and costs typically increase as the mercury rises, but there are a number of simple, economical ways to boost comfort, save energy and reduce electric bills. Most of these energy-saving steps can pay for themselves relatively quickly. For example, weather stripping and caulking are inexpensive ways to boost efficiency and cut energy costs year round.
A substantial portion of total residential energy costs is spent cooling homes. Reduce energy costs and ready the air conditioner with a cleaning and tune-up. Clean or change filters monthly during the cooling season. If you’re purchasing a new unit, check the efficiency rating, which could impact your annual energy costs. For greater operating efficiency, install the unit in a shady area, and keep it free from plant overgrowth and debris.
Most of summer heat buildup in homes comes through windows. Simply closing the curtains, blinds and shades can reduce this heat gain by up to 40%, which saves on cooling costs. Installing awnings or shutters over windows exposed to direct sunlight can reduce indoor heat gain by up to 70%. Outdoor landscaping that includes shade trees, as well as shrubs or other plants around the foundation, can also reduce energy costs.
Ventilate the attic and check insulation. Adequately sized vents and/or an attic fan can help keep hot air from building up. If your attic has less than 6 to 8 inches of insulation, consider adding more. Proper attic insulation can save up to 30% of your cooling bill. Be sure the insulation doesn’t block vents or cover exhaust fans.
Another inexpensive way to keep cool and reduce air conditioning costs is to use ceiling and oscillating fans. The moving air makes the temperature feel cooler and may allow you to feel comfortable even with a higher thermostat setting. For each 1-degree increase in the thermostat setting, cooling costs can be trimmed by about 3%.
Follow these operating tips for greater energy efficiency and reduction in air conditioning costs:
Install a programmable or smart thermostat to raise and lower the temperature automatically. A programmable version allows you to set it for a higher temperature while you’re away and set it to cool the house before you return home. A smart thermostat tracks your setting preferences and implements your cooling and heating patterns automatically. Also:
- Turn off unnecessary lights and television sets you’re not watching. Don’t leave computers on when not in use.
- Make sure heat-producing appliances like televisions and lamps are away from the thermostat. They will raise the temperature at the thermostat and cause the air conditioner to run when it is not needed.
- Plan to do hot work – washing and drying clothes, cooking and baking – during cooler morning and evening hours.
- Keep your kitchen cooler by cooking in a microwave oven or grilling outdoors.
Increased summer electric demand not only impacts the household budget, it can also place a serious strain on your home’s electrical system – a dangerous shock and fire hazard. Flickering or dimming lights, televisions or computer monitors, or frequent circuit breaker trips are signs of an overloaded electrical system or faulty wiring that should be checked immediately by a professional.
Homeowners can take simple electrical safety measures that can prevent overloaded outlets and serious damage and injury. Avoid using extension cords, and don’t use multiple plugs in outlets. Check plugs and electric cords for fraying or cracks, and never run cords across high-traffic areas, behind curtains or baseboards, or underneath rugs or furniture.
For more information, visit SafeElectricity.org.