Energy use and costs typically rise as the mercury rises, but there are a number of simple, economical ways to boost comfort, save energy, and cut 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 are 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. An efficiently running cooling system will save dollars. If you’re purchasing a new unit, check the efficiency rating, or SEER. The higher the SEER number the more efficient the air conditioner. For greater operating efficiency, install unit in a shady area, and keep free of plant overgrowth and debris.
Most of summer heat buildup in homes comes through windows. Simply closing the curtains, blinds and shades can cut this heat gain by up to 40 percent, and save big dollars in cooling costs. Installing awnings or shutters over windows exposed to direct sunlight can reduce indoor heat gain by up to 70 percent. Outdoor landscaping that includes shade trees and insulating foundation plants can also cut 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 percent of your cooling bill. Be sure the insulation doesn’t block vents or cover exhaust fans.
Another inexpensive way to keep cool and cut air conditioning costs is to use ceiling and oscillating fans to create a “wind chill” effect. The moving air makes the temperature feel cooler, and allows a higher air conditioner thermostat setting while maintaining cooling comfort. For each 1-degree increase in the thermostat setting, cooling costs can be trimmed by about 3 percent.
Follow these operating tips for greater energy efficiency and reduction in air conditioning costs:
- Install a timer or programmable thermostat to raise and lower the temperature automatically. Leave it on a higher temperature while you’re away, and set it to cool the house half an hour before you return home.
- 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 can place a strain on budgets, it can place a serious strain on your home’s electrical system – a dangerous shock and fire hazard. Flickering or dimming lights, T. V. or computer monitors, or frequent circuit breaker trips are signs of an overloaded electrical system or faulty wiring that should be checked 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.
Source: Energy Education Council @http://efficiencyresource.org/
For more electrical safety advice, visit the EEC’s SafeElectricity web site.