With hot and humid summer days settling in, staying cool is important. With energy costs rising, exorbitant energy bills are far too frequent at this time of year. Equipped with the right information, there are numerous low and no-cost options to improve your home’s energy performance and save you money. Below are some tips for saving energy and cutting your bills this summer.
Cut Back on Unnecessary Energy Use.
Before investing in expensive improvements, the first thing to address is the way you use your home. For most of us, simply changing habits will lower our energy bills.
Look at how you use your kitchen. The kitchen is one area where you can easily reduce energy. In the summer, use your microwave instead of the stove as often as possible. The microwave uses two-thirds less energy than the stove, and has the added benefit of not heating your kitchen. Running your dishwasher uses less water than washing dishes by hand, but it should only be run when full and set to air-dry. And stock up on food! Your refrigerator will use less energy if it is full; the volume of cool food keeps the refrigerator from warming up too fast when the door is opened.
Ceiling fans. In the rest of the house, ceiling fans are an easy way to keep energy costs down while keeping cool. By using ceiling fans, you can turn your thermostat up 4 degrees higher without affecting your comfort. But turn off the fans when you leave the room. They cool people, but not rooms.
Programmable Thermostat. Most of us have a programmable thermostat, but many of us don’t actually program them. Program your thermostat to a higher temperature when you are away from home, especially during the day when you are at work. If you do not have a programmable thermostat, consider investing in one. It is a low-cost measure that will yield results. When you return from vacation or from out of town, avoid setting your thermostat at a cooler temperature than normal. It will not cool your home any faster but will raise your energy bill.
Low-Cost Energy Saving Measures.
Once you have addressed your energy habits, low-cost energy saving measures are worth pursing.
Replace Air Conditioner Filters Monthly. Dirty filters restrict airflow and can cause your HVAC system to run longer, thus using more energy and money.
Get Your A/C Tuned-Up and Cleaned. A tune up service for the air conditioning system ensures that it will operate efficiently and safely. After the system is tuned and cleaned, cooling costs could decrease by 5 to 30 percent.
Test Your Ductwork. Improperly sealed or poorly maintained ductwork is one of the most common sources of poor energy performance, and it’s one of the cheapest to fix. Leaking ductwork can account for 25% of cooling costs in an average home. Have your ducts tested and have any leaks or restrictions repaired.
Insulate and Seal Your Attic. Make sure your attic is well insulated and sealed. Until recently, building codes only specified R30 insulation, but the Energy Star program recommends R38 to R60 rated insulation levels. Before adding insulation, make sure you seal all the unwanted connection points between the attic and your home. With generous government subsidies for energy efficiency, you could see a return on your investment in just a few years.
Energy Audit. An energy audit is a great way to map out a cost-effective set of priorities. By assessing your home’s specific performance, a unique report on what measures will most effectively cut your bills is produced, allowing you to prioritize your investment accordingly. Often we find that a simple overhaul of ductwork or air sealing will bring energy improvements at a low cost. Before you spend big money on energy efficiency, make sure you have a plan to spend that money itself efficiently. Savings could come cheaper than you’d think.